Bill to increase penalties against hazing signed into law

May 2, 2023, 9:36 AM


Bryan Hall on the Washington State University campus (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

State lawmakers have unanimously agreed to increase the penalties for hazing, making the offense a gross misdemeanor with up to a year in jail, and Gov. Jay Inslee has now signed the bill into law.

Additionally, this bill added felony hazing to the statutory lists of crimes against persons and crimes of harassment. Hazing that causes ‘substantial bodily harm’ will be a felony with up to five years in jail.

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“It is about time that we started taking the crime of hazing a lot more seriously and make sure institutions that allow this are indeed held accountable,” Democratic State Senator Manka Dhingra told KIRO Newsradio.

A person who participates in hazing will also forfeit any entitlement to state-funded grants, scholarships, or awards.

“55% of students experience some form of hazing, and 95% of these hazing incidents go unreported,” the staff summary of public testimony wrote in the legislation. “Hazing remains rampant on all types of colleges and can occur outside of fraternities and sororities. Students want this bill because organizations have not learned from recent deaths and hazing remains a requirement to join clubs, fraternities, and sororities.”

The bill was inspired and came to fruition after 19-year-old Sam Martinez died from alcohol poisoning in 2019. His parents pushed for an anti-hazing law that would increase potential punishments for the crime after police blamed Martinez’s death on hazing.

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Police believed the tragedy occurred during an event with Alpha Tau Omega, a Washington State University fraternity.

Jolayne Houtz, Martinez’s mother, said that when she woke up to the news, it was a nightmare come to life. Houtz says next week would have been her son’s college graduation.

She is hopeful this law will prevent any other families from facing the same tragedy.

Martinez’ parents also pushed for an additional law requiring college organizations to document and disclose past hazing incidents. It passed last year.

Matt Markovich contributed to this reporting.

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