65 The LAP may be used by anyone involved in working with a domestic violence case, including social workers, law enforcement, and
66 The LAP begins once a first responder67 is able to
assess the situation.
68 If there is any doubt as to the lethality the current situation, the responding officer will ask the victim eleven evidence-based
69 These questions can reliably predict the victim’s risk of death.
This objective tool is one way to make sure everyone who handles the particular case of domestic violence has the same information, and the same
assessment of danger. As more jurisdictions adopt and implement the LAP,
there will likely be more consistent and effective treatment of domestic violence cases. Ideally, conducting the LAP will become as commonplace and
necessary as taking a victim’s statement.
The processes currently in place in Maryland, including the LAP, the
VINE program, and law enforcement procedures, are providing resources to
the victims of domestic violence; however, the court system is not providing consistent protections to victims of domestic violence. Use of the LAP
can provide a mechanism for law enforcement when the incident of domestic violence occurs. Once the victim seeks and is granted a temporary protective order, he or she can enroll in the VINE program to get information
on the status of the abuser. Once the case gets to court, the victim may not
feel as supported. Judicial behavior, including the way judges address the
petitioners and respondents, varied from courtroom to courtroom. In some
cases, judges looked at text messages on the petitioner’s phone to support
his or her claim; other judges would not accept text messages as evidence.
Victims are poorly served when court officials fail to follow recognized
65. Va. Dep’t of Criminal Justice Servs., Review of Lethality Assessment Programs
3 (Oct. 2013), http://leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD2802013
/$file/RD280.pdf. The thirty-two states are: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina,
North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina,. South Dakota, Tennessee,
Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Md. Network Against Domestic Violence,
LAP Recognition, http://mnadv.org/lethality/lap-nationally/ (last visited May 22, 2014).
67. The first responder is typically a law enforcement officer who initiates the LAP upon arrival to a domestic violence call; however, other first responders like hospital staff or
practitioners may be the first to come in contact with a victim of domestic violence in the
course of their work. In this case, the first responder will initiate the LAP.
69. See id. These questions are known as the Lethality for First Responders. Id.
71. This statement is based on observations completed by the author, by students at the
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and Court Watch reports from
Baltimore City, Maryland and Montgomery County, Maryland.