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Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / What You Need to Know About the Gabby Petito Act in Florida

What You Need to Know About the Gabby Petito Act in Florida


Florida’s domestic violence laws are constantly evolving, and the newest change comes by way of the newly proposed “Gabby Petito Act.”  This law seeks to create tougher penalties for those accused of domestic violence in Florida.  The move has been largely celebrated by various media organizations, but many Florida residents might not be completely clear about what the bill means. How can this potential new law affect outcomes for domestic violence defendants?

Gabby Petito’s Story 

In 2022, the death of Gabby Petito made headlines across the country. The woman was killed by her fiancé during a road trip across the nation. When her fiancé returned without her, he refused to reveal her whereabouts and quickly embarked once more in his vehicle. An arrest warrant was issued, and the body of the fiancé was later discovered with self-inflicted gunshot wounds. A murder confession was also discovered next to his body.

One of the key aspects of this story was a domestic disturbance incident prior to the victim’s death. Witnesses called 9-11 after seeing Gabby’s fiancé strike her repeatedly. Police later caught up with the couple and questioned Gabby about obvious wounds on her body. Although Gabby admitted that her fiancé had been physically violent, police did not press charges. Questions were raised about whether police handled this incident effectively after Gabby’s murder, and Gabby’s parents subsequently sued the Moab police department.

What Will the Gabby Petito Act Attempt to Achieve? 

If passed, the Gabby Petito Act would require police officers responding to domestic violence incidents to carry out “lethality assessments.” When making these assessments, police will attempt to determine whether or not the victims face the threat of death or serious injuries from future domestic violence incidents.

It is not entirely clear what the effect of these assessments would be. At its core, a lethality assessment is only a diagnostic tool that helps predict future incidents. The implication, however, is that the results of these assessments could mandate criminal charges. When Moab police officers responded to Gabby Petito and her fiance, both individuals did not want to press charges. Police say that in this situation, they had no real option but to walk away. With a lethality assessment, police may have been legally bound to take action – potentially arresting the fiance for a crime he was “likely” to commit in the future.

The implications for due process and the burden proof are considerable for defendants in Florida.

Find a Qualified Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale 

If you’ve been searching for a qualified, experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer, look no further than Haber Blank, LLP. With laws constantly changing, defending yourself against domestic violence charges is often a confusing affair. A qualified defense attorney can help you fight these charges with a sense of confidence and efficiency. We stay up-to-date on the latest changes, allowing you to execute defense strategies that take the newest legislation into account. Reach out today to get started.



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