After tragic deaths, new laws honor teens by strengthening penalties for hazing and DUI
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 27, 2023) – Today at the state Capitol, Gov. Andy Beshear joined the bereaved families of Thomas “Lofton” Hazelwood and Lily Fairfield to sign two pieces of legislation that honor the teens’ lives and strengthen the state’s hazing and driving under the influence laws.
“These families have experienced the unimaginable, and today we not only stand with them to lift up their beautiful children – children of God who were taken far too soon – we stand with them in making changes that can help save other Kentuckians,” Gov. Beshear said.
The Governor signed Senate Bill 9, also known as Lofton’s Law, which was passed by lawmakers in response to the October 2021 hazing death of University of Kentucky freshman Lofton Hazelwood. Lofton was an 18-year-old from Henderson.
Gov. Beshear said since 2021, Lofton’s parents, Tracey and Kirk Hazelwood, have fought for legislation to help prevent this from happening to other families by increasing the penalty for hazing that results in physical harm or death to a Class D felony. Hazing that does not cause physical harm will be increased to a Class A misdemeanor.
Tracey and Kirk Hazelwood attended the bill signing ceremony with their children, Logan and Preston, while their daughter, Sydney, was watching from out of state.
“We just want to thank everybody that has helped us through this journey,” said Tracey Hazelwood. “It’s a phone call no one should have to get, and we hope this never happens to anyone ever again. This is not going to bring my baby back, but it will save other lives and that is all we can hope for – the safety of other students.”
“Signing this bill is the right thing to do. As a parent to two young kids myself, I cannot imagine what Tracey and Kirk and their children, Logan, Preston and Sydney, have had to go through,” Gov. Beshear said. “But because of this family, Lofton’s legacy is living on in so many incredible ways. One of them is through the Lofton Hazelwood Foundation, which is providing scholarships for an agriculture major or for a student to attend a trade school. This scholarship is for Henderson County residents, and the deadline to apply for this year is May 1. That is pretty special.”
Bill sponsor Sen. Robby Mills of Henderson, said, “The driving force behind this legislation is standing right here – it’s Lofton’s parents, Tracey and Kirk. Our goal was to make sure that Senate Bill 9 was a deterrent for future activities. But also, to say that in Kentucky, student safety is important to our state government. Young people that go to college in Kentucky should have the ability to have a great time in college and not have the fear of hazing that has been so prevalent over the last few years.”
Signing House Bill 262, or Lily’s Law, the Governor was joined by the family of Lily Fairfield, a 16-year-old from Oldham County who died in 2021 after a driver under the influence crashed into the car her sister, Zoe, was driving on their way to school. The driver had been arrested and immediately released just three days prior, on a DUI charge.
The bill mandates that a person is guilty of vehicular homicide when they cause the death of another resulting from their operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or other impairing substance. The bill makes vehicular homicide a Class B felony.
The bill also requires that individuals who are arrested for drunken driving shall be detained for at least six hours following their arrest. Current statute requires that an individual who is arrested and who has a breath analysis test result of 0.15% or more alcohol concentration shall be detained for four hours following arrest.
The bill amends state law to clarify that a breath test must be performed in accordance with the standard operating procedures adopted by the Department of Criminal Justice Training. Previously, the statute read that the manufacturer’s instructors or instructions adopted by the Department of Criminal Justice Training and approved by the manufacturer were acceptable.
Zoe, Lily’s sister, who was injured in the crash said, “A preventable tragedy stole my little sister’s bright life and a piece of our hearts. There is no bill that lawmakers could pass that would bring Lily back into our lives, but today we are taking a huge step forward in preventing future Kentucky families from receiving the same heartbreaking call we did.”
Lily’s and Zoe’s father, Mark, said, “Thank you to the Governor and to our representatives for taking this first step to help make our state proactive in solving problems versus waiting for them to happen.”
“Thank you, Zoe, for being here today with your father, Mark. And thank you for showing unimaginable strength and bravery. You have truly honored your sister’s life. And your work will make our roads safer and help protect more Kentuckians.” Gov. Beshear said.
The Governor also recognized the family’s attorney, Danielle Blandford, along with several Kentucky lawmakers for their work to make this bill a reality.
“I appreciate the Governor signing this bill into law. Far too many Kentuckians have lost their lives or loved ones as a result of a car wreck involving someone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” said Rep. Patrick Flannery, whose district covers Carter, Lewis and part of Boyd counties. “Over the past several years, the legislature has worked to both toughen penalties and help people get treatment. HB 262 is the next step in our efforts and will save innocent lives.”
House Speaker David Osborne also praised the bill’s signing: “Lily’s death was a senseless tragedy that no family should have to endure. HB 262 is the direct result of her family’s efforts to honor her life by preventing the same thing from happening to others. It will ensure those arrested for driving under the influence are detained and toughen the penalties for vehicular homicide. I appreciate Rep. Flannery for his efforts to carry the measure, as well as the Governor for signing it into law.”
Gov. Beshear also highlighted the work of Reps. Ken Fleming, Samara Heavrin, Charles Miller, Jason Nemes and Killian Timoney.