Florida has always been a leader when it comes to hazing law. In 2005, our state became one of the first to prosecute hazing as a felony with the passage of the “Chad Meredith Act”, a bill drafted by Attorney David Bianchi. More than 10 years later, Attorneys David Bianchi and Michael Levine have drafted yet another hazing bill that Governor DeSantis signed into law yesterday.
Now, reporters and news sites all over Florida have been reporting on the massive shift our new law represents. While other states around the country now have hazing statutes that prosecute hazing as a felony, Florida has a model that makes it more likely that fraternity and sorority members will call 911 as soon as they see that someone has been a victim of hazing. This law will save lives and make an entire generation of Florida students safer and more accountable.
Our victory is being reported by the following sources:
The Tallahassee Democrat included this quote from the Coffey family in their coverage: “We are very grateful to Gov. DeSantis, Sen. Book, Rep. LaMarca, FSU President John Thrasher and our attorneys David Bianchi and Michael Levine for all that they did to make this happen. Our son’s death has resulted in a new law that will hopefully save other families from a similar tragedy.”
One of the bill's sponsors, Senator Lauren Book, released a statement quoted by WTXL in their coverage: “Hazing is unacceptable, but no one should ever be afraid to call for help in a dangerous situation. I want to thank the Coffey family for lending their voices to support this life-saving bill, crafted in Andrew’s honor, and to Governor DeSantis for signing this life-saving legislation into law.”
In addition to incentivizing students to call for help whenever a hazing victim is in trouble, the new law makes it a crime for fraternity and sorority leaders to plan a hazing event, even if they aren’t present when the hazing happens. In an interview with the Daily Business Review, Mr. Bianchi discussed the reason they wanted to change the law to prosecute hazing event planners:
“Bianchi said the need for change became apparent when prosecutors in Coffey’s case found that some of the leaders who’d planned the fraternity’s annual Big Brother Night were not there when it happened, so they couldn’t be charged with a crime.”
Mr. Bianchi and Mr. Levine also explained the rationale behind potentially granting immunity to someone who had committed a hazing felony, which some lawmakers were concerned about.
“The answer is ‘Yes, you would be. But it’s worth the price,’” Bianchi said. “Because ask any parent of a college student who died in a hazing incident and they will always tell you they’d rather have their son or daughter back than to prosecute the person who did it.”
“So many people were there that could have done the right thing, that could have prevented this, and nobody picked up the phone,” Mr. Levine said to the Daily Business Review.
What Is Florida's New Hazing Law?
SB 1080, or "Andrew's Law," is a series of amendments designed to strengthen the current hazing statute and create additional protections for the victims of hazing. “Andrew's Law” provides immunity under the hazing statute to the first person to call 911 for the victim of hazing; it also offers protection for anyone who administers aid at the scene.
“Andrew's Law” was named after Andrew Coffey, an FSU student who was killed in a fraternity tradition known as "the family bottle" in November 2017. He spent the evening with a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon taped to his hand and was forced to drink it. When he collapsed from alcohol poisoning, other fraternity members moved him to the couch and didn't call for aid. When they found he was unresponsive hours later, they still delayed calling 911, fearing criminal prosecution.
He died the morning after the party.
In the end, it was the Coffey family's courage and convictions that brought this law to pass. David and Michael are honored to have stood with Tom and Sandra Coffey through this whole process, offering the insight and wisdom they've earned from having represented other families who were victimized by hazing.
As the Florida Politics article reported, "Coffey’s parents said “Andrew’s Law” should be a step forward in ending dangerous practices by college groups."
To learn more, view the Daily Business Review article detailing the signing of "Andrew's Law."