What are the Civil and Criminal Consequences to Hazing by Fraternities  and Sororities on College Campuses in the State of Florida?

College-Campus-150x150College should be an experience full of adventure, learning, and growing for students. Unfortunately for some of these students, the college experience is ruined by immature and mean-spirited acts of hazing in fraternities and sororities.  There are physical and psychological effects from such hazing events.  In 2019, the Florida legislature passed a new set of Hazing Laws that could apply to situations that take in place in fraternities and sororities.

Law makers are cracking down on hazing across the country, but in Florida especially. The laws have evolved with the unfortunate nature of hazing. It should be noted that the absence from a particular hazing event is no longer looked at as a lack of involvement in the eyes of law enforcement. Even if an individual was not physically present at the hazing event, if he or she helped plan it, he or she can be subject to criminal charges. While this provision will most likely affect organization leaders, the new law could also hold school administrator’s responsible. This new provision is meant to act as a catch-all regardless of an individual’s level of involvement, as in the past general chapter members have gotten away with hazing, while only the heavily involved and officers were charged.

The new law is called Andrew’s Law, named after Andrew Coffey, a Florida State Univesity student who died in 2017 from alcohol poisoning. He was participating in a fraternity ritual where he was required to drink an entire fifth of alcohol, following the instructions from his “big brother”. Andrew was 20 years old when he died with a blood alcohol level nearly six times the legal limit, after falling into unconsciousness and being left alone until the next day. Florida State Univesity’s Greek Life program was altered by the school’s president after Andrew’s death.  The Chad Meredith Act was also signed in 2005 following the hazing death of a University of Miami student who died tragically in a fraternity hazing incident in 2001. The Act made hazing a first-degree misdemeanor and a third-degree felony if a victim was seriously injured or killed.

Some call the Andrew’s Law the “most cutting-edge” in the country. It’s innovative nature also allows those involved to be safe from criminal charges if they are the first person to call 911 or campus security after recognizing that the victim needs medical help. In addition to being the first person to call for help, the individual also has to stay with the victim until help arrives, to remain immune from prosecution. There is  also potential for immunity if the individual themselves attempted to help the person by offering medical aid. One of the primary goals of the law is to save lives, ultimately with the overall goal to rid colleges and universities of hazing completely.

Hazing has an unfortunate history in Florida colleges and universities.  A trend that expands across entire country. Changes are being made on a national scale as well. U.S. Representatives introduced the End All Hazing Act, requiring colleges and universities to publish websites with information about student organizations previously disciplined for hazing. Should the law pass, school officials would also have to report possible incidents of hazing within 72 hours. The End All Hazing Act has support from both the National Panhellenic Conference and the North-American Interfraternity Conference, groups that represent fraternities and sororities on a national scale, showing promise of better college experiences for the next generation of students.

It should also be noted that fraternities and sororoties also have a general duty of care with respect to this members, pledges, and visitors.  In other words, fraternity and sorotity members must act reasonably and refrain from actions / inactions that put others at risk for harm.

David Wolf is a personal injury attorney with over 29 years of experience. Based in Jacksonville, Florida, he handles personal injury cases across the State of Florida.  For all personal injury cases including those related to hazing, Mr. Wolf provides for a Free Consultation.  As the author of 12 books that focus on personal injury and child safety matters, David Wolf firmly believes in Giving a Voice to Injured Children and Their Families.

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