The dangers of hazing.

The dangers of hazing.

Inhumane, cruel and tragic are some of the words that have been used to describe the 2017 death of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza.

According to court records and testimony, the 19-year-old consumed 18 drinks in 82 minutes during a campus fraternity’s hazing rituals and later died as a result of a traumatic brain injury after falling down the stairs. Members of the fraternity waited 12 hours to call an ambulance. Now, nearly two years after Piazza’s passing, many say his death has led to key changes in state legislatures and in the college fraternity and sorority community.

Four families that lost their sons to fraternity hazing, including Timothy’s parents, began working with the North American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference. Those two groups represent more than 90 fraternities and sororities in the U.S., and together they have formed an anti-hazing coalition and now share a common goal: to pass legislation that would increase criminal penalties for hazing, and to increase education and awareness on college campuses.

Rich Braham is another parent who’s traveled to colleges and universities across the country to support the mission. Braham’s 18-year-old son, Marquise, committed suicide back in 2014, and the family strongly believes it was because of alleged hazing while at Penn State Altoona. The case never resulted in criminal charges so the Braham family filed a civil lawsuit against Penn State as well as the Phi Sigma Kappa frat.

The fraternity’s national leadership objected to the suit’s allegations in a statement last year, saying that “Marquise’s tragic suicide had nothing to do with his involvement with the fraternity.” In a statement, Penn State “disputes the family’s characterization of these matters,” but later said, “Penn State Altoona looks forward to working with the Braham family in educating parents of prospective Greek life members.” The Braham family has reached settlements with all of the defendants in that case.

This new coalition of parents harks back to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) campaign of the 1980s. When Candace Lightner started MADD, four days after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver, public health professionals considered drunk driving to be the No. 1 killer of Americans between the ages of 15 and 24.

MADD’s efforts helped reduce the number of fatalities related to drunk driving and changed public perception of driving while intoxicated. Now, the parents in the anti-hazing coalition want to achieve those same results with respect to dangerous pledging rituals, and they’ve made some strides on campus and with policy.

In August, the North American Interfraternity Conference declared a ban on hard alcohol beginning in September 2019. Under the policy, hard liquor will still be allowed if it is served by a licensed third-party vendor.

However, no new policy is ever going to be better than its means of implementation. Virtually everything the fraternity industry does relies on 18 and 19-year-old men to implement it and make life and death decisions.

In October, the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law was signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. It gives tougher penalties for hazing, making it a felony if it results in death or serious injury.

However, hazing charges are still a misdemeanor in Ohio. Ohio’s hazing law makes it a crime to
participate or coerce someone else to participate in “any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person.” But that does little to stop hazing in Ohio, where fraternity brothers at Ohio University whipped their pledges with belts, pelted them with eggs and forced them to chug a large bottle of vodka in less than an hour at what was called “Blackout Monday.”

Hazing incidents on Ohio campuses continue to regularly made headlines, including the Nov. 12 death of Ohio University freshman Collin Wiant, who died of asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide ingestion. According to a toxicology report. He was found surrounded by drug paraphernalia, including canisters of nitrous oxide, also known as “whippets.”

Ohio State’s list of fraternity and sorority disciplinary history shows there were at least 16 other hazing violations among Greek chapters at Ohio State over the past five years. Of those, five resulted in chapter suspensions with the rest ending in probation.

Whatever the hazing ritual, it seems despite the dangers, Greek societies are determined to keep the ritual alive.

Have you or someone you love been charged with a crime resulting from hazing? Contact attorney Terry Sherman. The call is free.

5 Common Juvenile Crimes Committed During Summer Break

5 Common Juvenile Crimes Committed During Summer Break

Summer break. It’s a time for barbeques, pool parties and…getting arrested? For some juveniles, the answer might be yes. Studies show that kids have a tendency to get into more trouble with the law during the months when they are not in school.

While overall juvenile arrest rates may be down, the number of teenagers who face criminal charges each summer remains high. The short and long term effects of a guilty conviction are harsh and can include:

  • Impacting their ability to get a job or to get a Commercial Drivers License
  • Impacting their ability to get public housing
  • Impacting their ability to enlist in the military
  • Depending on the severity of the crime, they may be prevented from carrying a firearm
  • Drivers License Suspension
  • Possible impact on return to school or transferring to a new school
  • Having to pay fines, court costs, and restitution where assigned
  • May affect immigration status

The following are 5 of the most common charges against juvenile offenders:

1. Operating a Motor Vehicle while Under the Influence (DUI / OVI)

While Ohio’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for adults age 21 years and older is 0.08 percent, minors are subject to a law known as “zero tolerance.” What this means that a juvenile driver can be arrested and charged for DUI / OVI if they are caught driving with any amount of alcohol, marijuana, or drugs in his or her blood. Teenagers who are arrested for drunk driving may also face related charges, such as underage possession, and use of a fake ID.

2. Possession of Marijuana and Other Drug Offenses

A significant portion of juvenile arrests involve marijuana and other drug-related offenses. Although juveniles caught with small amounts of marijuana are typically only hit with a fine, any juvenile conviction for a drug-related offense can potentially have implications for school enrollment, employment eligibility, and driving privileges.

3. Sexual Assault

Sexual assault crimes are prosecuted in Ohio at both the adult and juvenile levels. Prosecutors can seek to charge younger juveniles as adults depending on age and severity of the crime. Any teenager facing sexual assault charges, regardless of the severity, should seek legal representation immediately.

4. Criminal Traffic Offenses

Most traffic violations are misdemeanors; distracted driving, disregarding a traffic control device, speed exhibition, and speeding. Others may accompany criminal charges; DUI / OVI, causing bodily harm by the operation of a motor vehicle, evading an officer, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident.

5. Theft (Shoplifting)

Theft is another common juvenile offense. In Ohio, the penalties for theft are determined by the value of the property stolen, with the felony offenses carrying the potential for significant fines and even imprisonment.

If you or your teenager has been arrested, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. We have extensive experience in Ohio criminal matters, and we can help protect you or your child.

Should Kids Be Allowed To Waive Their Miranda Rights?

Should Kids Be Allowed To Waive Their Miranda Rights?

Chances are that you’ve heard some version of the Miranda Rights before. You don’t have to be involved in a crime to have heard it, thanks to crime TV shows.

The Miranda Rights start with the famous “You have the right to remain silent…” It’s likely that you can recite the rest, but surprisingly, a lot of people don’t understand what the Miranda rights actually protect.

Protection Offered by the Miranda Rights

By law, a law enforcement officer is supposed to read the Miranda rights to the suspect at the time of his/her arrest. The major benefits include:

  • That you’re not required to speak to the police
  • That you are permitted to have an attorney advocate on your behalf at all times throughout police questioning

A defendant may choose to uphold these rights or waive them. In the event that the defendant chooses to waive his or her Miranda rights, and chooses to speak directly to officers in the absence of an attorney, then under the law, such correspondence is not coerced or involuntary.

Miranda Rights and Juveniles

Law enforcement officers also read Miranda rights to juveniles if they’re suspects. The issue is that juveniles often don’t fully understand the rights read to them, or even worse, the implication of waiving their Miranda rights. Because of this, the rate of waivers among juveniles is alarmingly as high as 90 percent.

This makes us question…Why?

One reason is of course understanding or lack thereof. In 2014, the Harvard Medical School and others identified 371 variations of the wording of Miranda rights. Of this number, an impressive 52 percent required at least an eighth-grade reading level for proper understanding. Comprehension becomes even more difficult once you factor in the added stress that plagues juveniles under arrest.

Another reason is the limited memory of all the rights that are included in Miranda. Taking advantage of one’s Miranda Rights goes far beyond understanding the verbiage. It’s equally, if not more important to remember all the rights later, after the arrest and during the interrogation.

Waiving of Miranda Rights by Juveniles

On the heels of these shocking stats are several cases relating to the waiving of Miranda rights by juveniles. On one hand are cases that dispute whether a juvenile actually waived his or her Miranda rights at all. On the other hand are cases that dispute whether the rights were stated in a way to make the juvenile understand what rights were protected.

A number of states are currently considering adopting a revised Miranda standard. This would address many of the concerns regarding Miranda rights and juveniles. Proposed processes that would address some of these concerns include:

Implementing a version of Miranda specifically for juveniles that are easier to understand.

Stipulating a minimum age requirement, meaning that juveniles below the age limit would be legally unable to waive their Miranda rights, make a confession or even speak to a police officer in the absence of a parent or guardian.

The foremost importance of Miranda rights is to protect against self-incrimination during questioning. Therefore, it’s critical to consult an experienced defense attorney like Terry Sherman if you or a loved one is of the belief that Miranda warnings were not properly provided or were improperly or unfairly waived. Call us now.

Can police question a child without a parent present?

Can police question a child without a parent present?

Even the most precious children are capable of committing heinous crimes. And while parents may be willing to do nearly anything to protect their children, police do not have to allow parents to be present during an interrogation. The best thing a parent can do for a child facing a police investigation or criminal charges is to hire a qualified juvenile justice attorney.

In fact, when conducting certain investigations, such as those involving abuse, or neglect, by a parent, officers usually question a child privately to avoid parental coercion. While parents can tell their child to refuse to speak with police investigating a crime, refusing investigators from Child Protective Services might result in some serious consequences.

What are the constitutional rights of juveniles?

Children have the same protections as adults, and may even have more protection since their age makes them more vulnerable. Historically, courts have ruled that children are entitled to being Mirandized, and may even be entitled to an earlier and more detailed Miranda warning than adults.

But, apart from identifying themselves, children do not have to talk to police at all. The constitution provides them with the right to remain silent, and children also have the right to have an attorney present during questioning.

Parental permission to speak with the police.

Parents often get upset when they learn that their child was questioned by police officers without their expressed permission. Juvenile justice varies from state to state, but most jurisdictions require parents be notified when a child is detained, and others will ask for parental consent before questioning a minor, even though doing so is not constitutionally required.

Typically, law enforcement officers will attempt to contact parents for the sake of health and safety, as there may be important information for officers to know about, such as a severe peanut allergy. Also, parents can unwittingly provide helpful information to officers.

Many older adolescents and teenagers may be more inclined to speak to officers if parents are not notified. It should be noted that officers are under no obligation to tell the truth concerning parental notification. Further, teens should understand that giving up your right to remain silent can be a very dangerous choice without consulting your own attorney.  A parent cannot represent their child in the criminal justice system.