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New Florida Domestic Violence Laws for 2024


Police get calls about domestic violence all the time; some couples and families have such a volatile relationship that the police know which house to go to before the 911 dispatcher even tells them the address.  Sometimes the incident turns out to be a tempest in a teacup, where two members of the same household got into a heated argument, or two adult siblings never grew out of the fistfight stage of their sibling relationship.  In other words, when police respond to a domestic violence call, it usually isn’t anything big.  When someone gets murdered by a former spouse or former romantic partner, the warning signs are usually obvious in retrospect, and police are among the many witnesses.  This year, Florida has enacted several laws to stop domestic violence from escalating.  These laws do not, however, change the rights of people accused of domestic violence or any other crime.  Here, our Miami domestic violence defense lawyer explains how two new Florida laws will affect how police approach alleged incidents of domestic violence.

The Gabby Petito Act

In the summer of 2021, vlogger Gabby Petito of North Port, Florida disappeared during a cross-country van trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie.  Her remains were later found in a park in Wyoming, and Laundrie later confessed in his suicide note that he had killed her.  The following year, Petito’s parents filed a lawsuit against the Moab Police Department, since, several days before her disappearance, police had responded to a domestic disturbance call near Moab, Utah, in which they broke up a fight between Petito and Laundrie.  The police ordered them to stay away from each other for the night, but they did not make any arrests, nor did the court enter a restraining order, despite that Petito had visible injuries.

In 2024, the Florida legislature passed the Gabby Petito Act, based on SB 610 and HB 673; the law goes into effect on July 1.  The law contains the following provisions:

  • Law enforcement officers who respond to domestic disturbance calls must complete and file a lethality assessment form. The report should describe any physical injuries visible on the parties’ bodies.
  • Officers must receive training on how to assess the risk of escalating violence in domestic disturbance situations.
  • Police must coordinate with other entities, such as shelters and resource centers for domestic violence survivors, about cases of domestic violence.

Hope Cards for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Another domestic violence-related law, SB 86, will go into effect on October 1.  This law provides for the implementation of hope cards.  These are wallet-sized cards, similar in appearance to a voter registration card or insurance card, which courts issue to petitioners for domestic violence-related restraining orders when the court issues the restraining order.  An electronic version of the hope card remains in the court system’s database even after the restraining order expires or has been withdrawn.

Florida and other states have chosen to implement the hope card system after noticing a pattern in murder cases involving former spouses and domestic partners.  Often, the couple had a history of domestic violence-related police interactions, with or without prior criminal convictions.  In some cases, the victims had previously refused to cooperate in criminal investigations, causing the courts to drop the case.  The hope cards include not only the bearer’s name but also the name of the former partner against whom he or she has obtained a restraining order.  The cards enable police who respond to domestic disturbance calls to see that, even if the couple insists that the fight is no big deal and they have already resolved their differences, there is a history of violence and a risk of escalation.

What Does Not Change With the New Laws?

The new laws relate to how police should respond to domestic violence allegations before the criminal courts get involved.  They do not change the definition of domestic violence, which covers all acts and threats of physical violence between people related by blood, marriage, or romantic relationships.  The new laws also do not change the rights of defendants accused of crimes, including domestic violence.  Even if a court saw fit to order you to stay away from your ex for the next two years, you still have a chance to persuade a jury that there is reasonable doubt about whether you assaulted or threatened your ex.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges for domestic violence.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a confidential consultation about your case.


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