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August 25, 2021

Strict anti-hazing law signed by Gov. Murphy 'strongest effort yet' in the state

The law is named after Timothy Piazza, a New Jersey native who died as a result of hazing at Penn State in 2017

Government Laws
Anti-hazing policy Jason Mendez/Sipa USA

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed a law that imposes stricter punishments for those convicted of hazing in the state.

Schools and universities in New Jersey will now have to adopt anti-hazing policies under a new law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy Tuesday.

Murphy said the law is the state's "strongest effort yet to root out hazing."

The law is named after Timothy J. Piazza, a 19-year-old from Readington who died after being hazed in February 2017 while rushing the Beta Theta Pi house at Penn State. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a similar law in Pennsylvania in 2018 also named after Piazza. 

It requires all schools in the state, including higher education institutions, to draw up anti-hazing policies and penalties that could include withholding of a diploma, suspension or expulsion.

The law also increases the severity of hazing charges and enforces a harsher punishment upon conviction.

Hazing that causes serious injury or death has been upgraded from a fourth-degree crime to a third-degree crime, meaning conviction will carry a prison sentence of up to five years, a fine up to $15,000, or both. Before, prison sentences for hazing were 18 months and fines could reach $10,000.

If the hazing results in less serious injuries, it is considered a fourth-degree crime instead of a disorderly persons offense, which could result in six months of prison time, a $1,000 fine, or both.

"Our greatest hope is that we never have to prosecute someone under this new law, and that we’re able to stamp out illegal hazing through the deterrent effect alone," acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck said. "But should it become necessary, we will not hesitate to use the enhanced tools that Governor Murphy and the Legislature have now given us to hold accountable those who break the law."

Those who help the person being hazed will be granted amnesty in the new law, also.

Timothy's parents, Jim and Evelyn Piazza, said that they got together with other parents of hazing victims to eradicate the practice on college campuses. 

"This law will be the stiffest in the country and will hopefully deter this bad behavior and hold those accountable who choose to put someone's well-being and/or life at risk as part of an initiation ritual," Jim and Evelyn Piazza said.

Piazza died in 2017 after excessive drinking on his first night of pledging the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State University, CNN reported. He fell several times that night, resulting in a severe head injury and his death the next day.

The fraternity brothers waited 12 hours to contact authorities and four members were sentenced in Piazza's death, three of which were sentenced to jail time.

"This legislation, which was spurred by the tragic loss of Timothy Piazza, who died during a fraternity hazing ritual, sends a clear message: if you engage in deplorable acts like hazing, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. said.

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