Changes Introduced To Hazing Penalties Through ‘Tim’s Law’
The new legislation — named after Tim Piazza, the Penn State student who died following a hazing ritual at the on-campus Beta Theta Pi fraternity house in February 2017 — toughens criminal penalties for hazing and increases requirements for institutions and organizations.
Officially introduced by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman in March, the legislation unanimously made its way through both the state’s Senate and House of Representatives in the past few months.
Tiered Hazing Penalties
The law defines hazing as an activity to be affiliated with an organization that forces or coerces an individual to:
- consume any food, liquid, alcohol, drugs, or other substance which subjects a minor or student to physical or emotional harm
- endure brutality of a physical nature, including, whipping, beating, branding, calisthenics, or exposure to the elements
- endure brutality of a mental nature, including activity adversely affecting the mental health or dignity of the individual, sleep deprivation, exclusion from social contact, or conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment
- endure brutality of a sexual nature
- endure any other activity that could result in bodily injury
As first discussed by former Centre County DA Stacy Parks Miller, “Tim’s Law” introduces a tiered system to hazing penalties:
- Third Degree Felony — “Aggravated Hazing,” defined as hazing that results in serious bodily injury or death
- Third Degree Misdemeanor — defined as hazing that results in or creates a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury
- Summary Offense — defined hazing that does not result in bodily injury
The major change is the addition of “aggravated hazing,” which introduces a potential felony to those who are charged with hazing.
In the ongoing Beta Theta Pi case, most former brothers’ most serious charges remaining (or that they already pleaded guilty to) are for hazing, which was only classified as a misdemeanor. While the District Attorney’s Office did originally pursue felony charges against certain brothers for aggravated assault, those charges have either been dismissed by the judge or dropped by the current prosecutor, the PA Attorney General’s Office.
“Tim’s Law” also provides guidelines for organizations and institutions to follow in order to best prevent hazing.
Essentially if these higher powers “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” promote hazing among students or members, they commit the penalty of organizational or institutional hazing.
The penalty introduces fines of up to $15,000 for each hazing offense and potential forfeiture of property.
Institutions are also required to have a written policy against hazing and adopt rules prohibiting hazing, as well as maintain biannual institutional reports documenting violations of the hazing policy.
Another major change to anti-hazing laws in the state provides immunity from prosecuting for hazing to someone who calls for medical attention.
Immunity would be provided to anyone who meets each of these qualifications:
- Law enforcement first became aware of an individual’s violation of hazing laws because the individual contacted emergency services.
- The individual reasonably believed that they were the first to contact emergency services for medical attention.
- The individual provided their own name to the 911 operator or equivalent emergency services contact.
- The individual remained with the person needing medical assistance until emergency services arrived.
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