Jan 31, 2023 - News

Utah Senate passes domestic violence threat assessment bill

Illustration of the Utah State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Utah Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday that would require law enforcement officers to conduct an 11-question assessment when responding to domestic violence-related calls.

Why it matters: First responders use lethality assessments to evaluate whether a person faces an increased risk of injury or death by an intimate partner. Questions touch on whether an aggressor has access to a firearm, or incidents of non-fatal strangulation.

  • Identifying risk factors early could help police intervene and prevent domestic violence homicides.

Details: Many Utah police departments use a lethality assessment on a voluntary basis, but if passed, the legislation would require all law enforcement agencies to comply.

  • SB 17 also directs the Utah Department of Public Safety to establish a statewide database to store the lethality assessment data for other agencies to access.
  • The proposed legislation is co-sponsored by state Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross) and state Rep. Ryan Wilcox (R-Ogden).
  • Weiler said he began crafting the bill last year with Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson after her cousin, 34-year-old Amanda Mayne, was killed by a man she used to date.

What they're saying: "We're going to create a database so when an officer responds to this type of incident, he … or she can know immediately if this aggressor or this victim has been involved in similar circumstances," a tearful Weiler said on the Senate floor Monday.

Of note: The parents of Gabby Petito, who was killed by her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, in 2021 during a cross-country road trip, were present for the bill's Senate passage.

  • In 2021, police officers responded to a witness's 911 call and found Petito and Laundrie to be "engaged in some sort of altercation," according to CNN.
  • An independent investigation into Moab police officers' handling of the incident found the officers "made several unintentional mistakes."

The bottom line: The measure would allocate $1.7 million annually to the Utah Department of Public Safety, as well as a one-time sum of $100,000.

What's next: The bill now heads to the House for consideration.


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