The “Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law” – a National Model for Anti-Hazing Legislation

Governor Wolf is set to sign the “Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law,” a law sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader and 34th Senatorial District Rep. Jake Corman. The Piazza family worked with Corman to create the bill after the family’s 19-year-old son, Timothy, succumbed to injuries sustained following a fraternity pledge party, where hazing by excessive alcohol consumption occurred. As confirmed by surveillance video, Piazza consumed 18 drinks in 82 minutes. As a result of the incident, the Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi has been barred from University Park, 26 members of the fraternity face a variety of charges, including involuntary manslaughter. A civil suit is also underway.

The Piazza Family and lawmakers fought for this law, which outlines strict penalties for hazing. The bill will establish clear-cut parameters for fraternities and sororities, and create tiers for hazing. Hazing which results in serious bodily injury or death will be considered a third-degree felony, resulting in fines of up to $15,000, and imprisonment of up to seven years. Hazing resulting in less serious bodily injury will be considered a third-degree misdemeanor and offenders will risk fines of up to $2,500 and imprisonment for one year. Other hazing would be considered a summary offense.

The bill will include “safe harbor” provisions, which will permit students to call for help without the fear of prosecution.

According to the New York Times, there has been at least one hazing death each year since 1961. Fortunately, most states have anti-hazing laws. Although the laws have become tougher in recent years, there is still more that can be done. Sadly, 6 states don’t have any anti-hazing laws at all. Hopefully, Pennsylvania’s new law will inspire other states to create similar laws, and protect all from the cruelty of hazing.

Scott Bonebrake is a general practitioner in Media, PA, and has been a licensed attorney for 23 years. Please feel free to contact Scott with any legal questions or concerns at 610-892-7700, or at sbonebrake@noelandbonebrake.com.