On October 1, Andrew's Law—the law named for and inspired by Andrew Coffey, an FSU student who died in a fraternity hazing event in November 2017—officially took effect. Among other things, the law grants immunity from criminal prosecution under the hazing statute for the first person to call 911 or render medical aid to a victim of hazing while help is on the way. The idea is to encourage students to intervene on behalf of people who have been seriously harmed by hazing before it is too late.
The law is a direct response to the way Andrew died: while he was suffering from acute alcohol poisoning, his fraternity brothers decided not to call an ambulance and, instead, they let him "sleep it off." That decision proved fatal; even when they found him unresponsive in the morning, the fraternity spent 11 minutes deliberating about what to do instead of calling 911. Andrew's Law was written to help make sure this never happens to another college student ever again.
Last week, Attorneys David Bianchi and Michael Levine visited multiple Florida colleges to discuss Andrew's Law for Hazing Prevention Week, an annual week-long event dedicated to making students aware of the signs and risks of hazing. They spoke to nearly 2,000 students and faculty at Florida State University, the University of Miami, the University of Central Florida, and Florida International University. Mr. Bianchi and Mr. Levine represented Andrew's family in the civil suit against the fraternity and its leaders, and were key architects of Andrew's Law that is now in effect in Florida.
The effective date of Andrew’s Law and David and Michael’s efforts to educate students earned news coverage from multiple sources, including the Florida Bar, CBS, The Tallahassee Democrat and others.
Florida Reporters Note Unprecedented Measures in Andrew's Law
Andrew's Law is actually an expansion of the Chad Meredith Act, Florida's first hazing statute which was also written by David Bianchi many years ago. The Chad Meredith Act made our state a leader in hazing legislation, as it was one of the first laws to make causing injury from hazing a felony. When Andrew died, the Chad Meredith Act was 12 years old, and as David has been quoted many times, “We knew we had to make our good law even better.” David and Michael did that, and we are very grateful that they did.
News sources that have reported on Andrew's Law include:
Unfortunately, this same week, three FSU fraternities—Delta Tau Delta, Phi Kappa Tau, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon—were suspended for alcohol violations and allegations of hazing. Delta Tau Delta was actually suspended on the same day Andrew’s Law took effect.
Mr. Bianchi responded to the news with shock and disappointment, calling it “mind boggling” to the reporters from the Tallahassee Democrat. “I’m in a state of shock,” he said. “I was just at FSU last week and spoke to approximately 400 members of the Greek community, reviewing for them Andrew’s Law, the history of hazing problems at the university. I thought that the message was delivered loudly and clearly, but apparently not.”
However, FSU Vice President for Student Affairs Amy Hecht has a more optimistic view of the suspensions: “While these allegations are disappointing, they indicate that the university’s education and prevention policies and initiatives are working. Students and their families are reporting concerning issues.”
With Andrew's Law, Florida once again is a leader in nationwide hazing prevention legislation. News reports note that Andrew's Law is the first hazing statute to grant immunity to people who render aid; it also makes fraternity organizers and leaders liable for what occurs at their parties, even if they're not present. Both these measures will save lives and help families seek justice from the individuals responsible for hazing events.