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What Is Hazing?

May 2, 2020

Hazing is a crime in certain situations in California.

What Is Hazing?

If you follow the news, you have likely seen stories about hazing, such as the Penn State student who died after his fraternity brothers forced him to drink large amounts of alcohol and then didn’t seek medical help after he fell and hit his head. That may have been an extreme example of hazing, but it happens many different ways throughout the country — including here in California. So what exactly is hazing, and when can you be charged with the crime for hazing?

According to a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, CA, California law makes it a crime to engage in hazing which is defined as a method of initiation or pre-initiation into a student-based organization. To be considered hazing, it must be likely to cause serious bodily injury to a student. A serious bodily injury means an impairment to a physical condition, such as a concussion, loss of consciousness, or disfigurement. Under this law, students include current, former, and prospective students in any school, community college, university, or other educational institution in California.

Hazing can happen in any number of ways. For example, if a group of senior football players at a local university force new or younger team members to be repeatedly hit by the older team members, that would likely be considered hazing. Other forms of hazing may also be charged as a crime, such as making members of a team, club, or Greek organization drink a lot of alcohol (or even water), or eat something that is disgusting or likely to cause harm. The key is that (1) the activity is likely to cause serious bodily injury and (2) it is a method of initiation into a student organization.

Hazing may be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on whether it leads to serious bodily injury. If the victim(s) do not suffer serious bodily injury, it is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in county jail, a fine of $100 to $5,000 and/or misdemeanor probation. However, if the hazing leads to death or serious bodily injury, it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. As a felony, hazing is punishable by a jail term of up to 3 years, felony probation, and/or a fine.

In addition to these criminal penalties, the victim of the hazing may also file a civil lawsuit against anyone who participated in the hazing as well as the organization itself. The lawsuit may seek compensation for any injury or damages that the alleged victim suffered.

Given these potentially serious consequences, it is important to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, CA if you have been accused of hazing. There are a number of potential factual and legal defenses to allegations of hazing. For example, if whatever happened doesn’t meet the legal definition of hazing under California law, your attorney may be able to have the charges reduced or dismissed. This may happen if the alleged victim wasn’t a student, or if it didn’t occur as part of an initiation or pre-initiation requirement.

If you have been charged with hazing or a related offense, the Chambers Law Firm can help. We will aggressively defend you against the charges, and work to protect your rights and freedom. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, CA.

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