Cox signs bill requiring lethality assessments in Utah domestic violence cases

Mar 21, 2023, 6:11 AM

Gov. Spencer Cox holds his monthly news conference on March 16. Cox signed a bill Monday that requi...

Gov. Spencer Cox holds his monthly news conference on March 16. Cox signed a bill Monday that requires police to conduct lethality assessments when responding to domestic violence calls. (Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox on Monday signed a bill that requires Utah law enforcement officers to conduct lethality assessments when responding to reports of domestic violence between intimate partners.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson was a strong proponent of the bill after her cousin, Amanda “Mandy” Mayne, was killed by Mayne’s ex-husband last August.

“After a lot of hard work, the Mayne family joined me as Gov. Cox signed SB117 into law today,” Henderson said on Twitter. “I’m looking forward to the ceremonial signing of all the great domestic violence-related bills that came out of session.”

SB117, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, requires law enforcement to conduct a lethality assessment during all domestic violence calls, whether an arrest is made or not.

Officers are required to ask the following questions during the assessment:

  1. If the aggressor has ever used a weapon against the victim or threatened the victim with a weapon.
  2. If the aggressor has ever threatened to kill the victim or the victim’s children.
  3. If the victim believes the aggressor will try to kill the victim.
  4. If the aggressor has ever tried to choke the victim.
  5. If the aggressor has a gun or could easily get a gun.
  6. If the aggressor is violently or constantly jealous, or controls most of the daily activities of the victim.
  7. If the victim left or separated from the aggressor after they were living together or married.
  8. If the aggressor is unemployed.
  9. If the aggressor has ever attempted suicide, to the best of the victim’s knowledge.
  10. If the victim has a child that the aggressor believes is not the aggressor’s biological child.
  11. If the aggressor follows or spies on the victim, or leaves threatening messages for the victim.
  12. If there is anything else that worries the victim about the victim’s safety and, if so, what worries the victim.

If a victim answers “yes” to any of the first four questions — which are highly correlated with intimate partner violence — or answers “yes” to at least four of questions 5-11, the officer is required to refer the victim to a women’s shelter or another victim services organization.

The bill also allocates funds to create a database of assessment data and facilitate sharing between agencies, so that officers can access information about previous offenses by alleged aggressors.

Some agencies have voluntarily used lethality assessments for years, but there has not been a state standard until now.

No assessment was done in Mayne’s case, and her parents told lawmakers that one could have saved her life.

“I feel I represent my family and my cousin, but I represent everybody in this state, as well,” Henderson said in January. “And there are a lot of people, a lot of victims, a lot of families that have suffered.”

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Cox signs bill requiring lethality assessments in Utah domestic violence cases