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‘Tim’s Law’ Proposed to Toughen Penalties for Hazing

by and on December 15, 2017 3:30 PM

By Steve Connelly and Geoff Rushton

A strengthening of the "currently deficient" hazing law in Pennsylvania was among the recommendations proposed in a report on a 10-month grand jury investigation into Penn State fraternity culture.

“Hazing right now is only a misdemeanor, and that’s not sufficient,” Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said.

The legislation would be dubbed “Tim’s Law” in recognition of Timothy Piazza’s death in February following a bid acceptance event at the now-banned Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi

It would be a “multi-tiered” system in which the punishment reflects the result of the hazing. Currently, hazing is a second degree misdemeanor, but the grand jury recommends a first degree misdemeanor for any hazing that “causes or risks causing bodily injury,” a second degree felony for hazing that “causes or risks causing serious bodily injury,” and a first degree felony for hazing that “results in the death of the victim.”

There would be heavier penalties for repeat offenders and a “special enhancement” for cases involving a deadly or offensive weapon, including in a bat or a paddle.

The report also calls for stronger language in the hazing law to emphasize the law's rejection of victim blaming in these cases. Attorneys for some defendants charged in connection with Piazza's death have questioned whether he was hazed if he voluntarily participated in the drinking

“I never understood that theory. It doesn’t have to be forced. Hazing is forced,” Parks Miller said when new charges were rolled out back in November in response to whether Piazza was forced to drink.

There would be a subsection to “Tim’s Law” titled “Defenses,” which reads “it shall not be a defense to an offense in this section that the victim consented to or voluntarily participated in any activity that meets the above definition of hazing.

The recommendation also states that the hazing law should be moved from the Education Act to the Crimes Code.

The grand jury calls on the Pennsylvania General Assembly and specifically Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, to take up the legislation. Parks Miller said she has not spoken to Corman about it.

Penn State officials have said they are working with legislators to craft tougher hazing laws.

The grand jury report also calls for a multi-tiered system for grading furnishing alcohol to minors offenses. Currently a third-degree misdemeanor, the charge, according to the report, should be a third-degree felony if furnishing occurs during hazing, a second-degree felony if it results in bodily injury and a first-degree felony if it results in death.

Penalties also should be increased for second, third and fourth or more convictions for furnishing, the report recommends. 

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

Steve Connelly is a staff writer for Onward State.
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