For many, it is an initiation into a fraternity or social group, a way to prove that someone belongs. Hazing is not new, it has been around for centuries, as a welcomed ritual for some, and distressing and harmful experience for others. Whatever your thoughts, it is illegal in California and classified as a criminal offense under Penal Code 245.6.
While the law criminalizing hazing is welcomed, especially in light of incidents surrounding the death or serious injury of students who were subjected to the behavior, the perpetrators are often times not aware that they are committing a crime. This is because hazing has become such a common place activity in some schools, that even “victims” are willing participants. However, if you are charged with hazing, ignorance of the law is no excuse, you will need a San Diego college crimes lawyer.
What is Criminal Hazing?
The law criminalizing hazing came into effect in 2006. There is a specific definition for hazing, broken down into three elements:
- The activity must be related to an initiation ceremony into an organization or group for students. The law, therefore, limits hazing to a school setting.
- The activity results in or is likely to cause bodily injury that is considered serious. The law prescribed that such injury should also occur at school.
- It is not hazing if the behavior is part of a customary athletic event or related to an activity sanctioned by the school.
Accordingly, not all hazing in the regular definition of the word would be covered by the law, but if charged, the law allows for serious penalties.
Hazing – Can I Go to Jail?
Whether you will go to jail after a hazing conviction is dependent on a number of factors at sentencing. Suffice to say, that even as a misdemeanor, it is possible to face imprisonment. Hazing is a misdemeanor if no actual physical harm comes to the victim. The penalties for misdemeanor hazing includes a fine of a maximum of $5,000, 1-year jail time, or both the fine and time behind bars. Having a San Diego college crimes lawyer can help you with the representation that can prevent such penalties.
The penalties increase if you are charged with hazing as a felony. If, as a result of the hazing, the victim dies or suffer serious bodily injury, the prosecution may proceed with the offense as a felony or as a misdemeanor. In either case, the penalty is imprisonment with a maximum of one year as a misdemeanor or up to three years if charged as a felony.
It is clear that the penalties are harsh for hazing. Since the crime of hazing can only happen in the school setting, the person generally is young. Fighting a hazing criminal case will be important to securing your freedom, preventing a criminal record and pursing your educational and career goals. To prove your innocence and to stay out of jail, you should hire a California lawyer capable of preparing a winning defense.
Hazing – Do I Have a Case?
This will be a very confusing time for you and your family. You might be wondering, “what did I do wrong? This was a tradition!” Like any other criminal offence, you are innocent until you are found guilty by a court of law. A defense to hazing requires proving the non-existence of any of the elements of the crime. For example, a good defense would include the following arguments:
- The behavior was not carried out as part of any initiation or pre-initiation; or
- Even if it was, it was not likely to cause and did not cause any serious bodily harm; or
- The behavior was part of a school-sanctioned event.
It is important to note, that there are specific requirements to prove criminal hazing. It does not preclude the victim from pursuing a civil matter, disciplinary actions from your school, or you being charged with some other criminal offense. The law of criminal hazing is fairly new; but the penalties are still very serious. Accordingly, you need a lawyer who is skilled in preparing criminal defense cases and will offer high-quality courtroom representation.
At McElfresh Law, we have years of criminal defense experience as a San Diego college crimes attorney, coupled with a professional and well trained legal team. We are committed to helping you fight your charge of hazing and try to get you back to the life you were living before being charged. Serious criminal offenses require the serious and steady hands of the lawyers at McElfresh Law. Reach out to us today at and let us get to working on your case.