Florida Introduces ‘Gabby Petito Act’ in 2024 to Strengthen Domestic Violence Laws: Key Insights into SB 610

On November 29, two Florida legislators introduced a bill aimed at bolstering efforts to prevent domestic violence. The impetus behind this legislative initiative was the tragic death of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old travel vlogger who was killed by her fiancé during a cross-country road trip in 2021. The nationwide attention and subsequent search for her missing fiancé underscored the need for increased domestic violence prevention measures.

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, representing Davie, and Rep. Robin Bartleman, from Weston, jointly filed the “Gabby Petito Act” in response to a proposal brought forth by Gabby’s father, Joseph Petito, from Vero Beach.

The Gabby Petito Act mandates that law enforcement officers conduct lethality assessments on survivors and encourages closer collaboration between advocates and law enforcement agencies in Florida. According to a press release, the bill aims to enhance domestic violence prevention efforts by implementing the following measures.

Senate Bill 610 and House Bill 673, both known as the Gabby Petito Act for domestic violence investigations, include the following key provisions:

  1. Lethality Assessment Requirement: Law enforcement officers must complete a lethality assessment form when investigating alleged incidents of domestic violence.
  2. Consultation and Training: The department is required to consult with specified entities on the policies, procedures, and training necessary for the effective use of the lethality assessment form.
  3. Training Mandate: Law enforcement officers are prohibited from using the assessment form unless they have undergone specific training. The Senate bill further mandates that officers responding to domestic violence reports submit a written report, regardless of whether an arrest is made.
  4. Reporting Procedures: The initial police report indicating a domestic violence incident must be submitted to the officer’s supervisor and filed to compile data on domestic violence cases. Additionally, this report should be sent to the nearest locally certified domestic violence center within 24 hours of receiving the report, including a narrative description of the incident.
  5. Effective Date: If approved by the Legislature during its early 2024 session, the Gabby Petito Act is set to take effect on July 1, 2024.

In a statement, Senator Lauren Book emphasized that the goal of the Gabby Petito Act is to honor Gabby’s life by proactively safeguarding the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence, aiming to prevent tragedies like Gabby Petito’s from happening again.