After the tragic death of a young pledge seeking membership in a Florida State University fraternity, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1080, also known as Andrew’s Law. According to WJCT News Service of Florida, the intent of the bill was to expand the criminalization of hazing activities. The bill passed into law on October 1, 2019.
The parents of the college student who died drinking from a bottle of bourbon taped to his hand helped push the law’s passage. The new law expands the planning or soliciting of hazing activities to a felony if it results in death, bodily harm or a permanent injury. Hazing may include any activities intended to result in extreme embarrassment or mental or physical harm through excessive drinking or forced consumption, beating, exposure to the elements or sleep deprivation. Obtaining the victims consent before hazing does not serve as a valid defense.
Dangers of pledging
The danger in hazing lies in the intent to do it excessively enough to humiliate the pledge to test his allegiance to the fraternity. When pledges successfully complete the initiation-by-ordeal process, they may begin the fraternity’s admittance ceremonies. Many pledges, however, do not make it past the first phase of hazing.
Reportedly, a 20-year-old pledge considering membership in a fraternity at Florida State University suffered a severe brain injury while enduring a blow to his face as part of the hazing activities. To help recover from his injuries, the student filed a legal action against the fraternity claiming negligence.
Reporting hazing and immunity from prosecution
To help curb the effects of hazing, Florida’s SB 1080 provides an individual with immunity from criminal charges if he or she reports excessive or potentially harmful hazing by phone to 9-1-1. Reporting dangerous activities that require medical attention may prevent serious injuries or death. The phone call may also alert law enforcement officials to a hazing incident so that they may begin an investigation to determine if pledging activities merit criminal charges.