Is Hazing a Crime?
New Jersey Hazing Law
Hazing is a type of initiation that many college students participate in. Fraternities, sororities, athletic organizations, and other student establishments on university campuses initiate members into their groups in a variety of ways, including hazing. This raises questions and concerns about the hazards and impacts of hazing.
In New Jersey, a person is guilty of hazing if they knowingly or recklessly organize, promote, facilitate, or engage in any conduct, other than competitive athletic events, that places or may place another person in danger of bodily injury if its in connection with an initiation into a student or fraternal organization. This is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
The charge can be enhanced to a fourth-degree crime if aggravating factors are present. A person is guilty of aggravated hazing if the actions constituting a disorderly persons offense result in serious bodily injury. The only difference between the two charges is that fourth-degree hazing results in serious bodily injury while the disorderly persons offense places the victim in danger of bodily injury.
Timothy J. Piazza Bill
The 2017 death of Timothy J. Piazza, a Pennsylvania State University student from New Jersey, gave rise to the Timothy J. Piazza bill. Timothy drank 18 alcoholic drinks at a fraternity party, causing his BAC to be between .28 and .35. As a result, he fell down a flight of stairs and his fraternity “brothers” failed to give immediate medical attention. The members waited until the next morning to call 9-1-1, but it was too late.
As a result of Timothy’s tragic death, lawmakers enacted the Timothy J. Piazza bill, which made hazing a disorderly persons offense. However, lawmakers are now seeking harsher penalties for people convicted of hazing. Instead of charging hazing as a disorderly persons offense, the new legislation would make the practice a fourth-degree crime. Aggravated hazing charges would then be charged as a third-degree offense, punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and $15,000 fines.
If this legislation passes, defendants could face tougher penalties for hazing in New Jersey.
Effects of Hazing
Why is hazing illegal in New Jersey? Given Timothy Piazza’s case, you can see that hazing can be dangerous and deadly. But the impacts of hazing span far and wide, resulting in outcomes such as:
- Physical, emotional, and/or mental instability
- Sleep deprivation
- Loss of sense of control and empowerment
- A decline in grades and coursework
- Severed relationships with friends, significant others, and/or family
- Post-traumatic stress syndrome
- Loss of respect for the organization
- Loss of trust between group members
- Illness or hospitalization
Hazing Statistics in the US
With the above information in mind, it is clear that hazing is more than what it looks like on the surface. Studies show that hazing is extremely common and underreported, but since state legislators and college administrators are shifting their focus to detecting and deterring hazing more than the past, there’s a chance you could get in legal trouble for participating in hazing. To demonstrate this, the following hazing statistics are provided by Stetson University and cited from Hazing in View: Students at Risk conducted by Elizabeth Allan, Ph.D. and Mary Madden, Ph.D. from the University of Maine.
- 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year; 47 percent of students came to college already having experienced hazing.
- 55 percent of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.
- Alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep deprivation, and sexual acts are hazing practices common across all types of student groups.
- 40 percent of athletes who reported being involved in hazing behaviors said that a coach or advisor was aware of the activity; 22 percent allege that the coach was involved.
- Two in five students say they are aware of hazing taking place on their campus. More than one in five people report witnessing hazing personally.
- In 95 percent of cases where students identified their experience as hazing, they did not report the events to campus officials.
- Nine out of ten students who have experienced hazing behavior in college do not consider themselves to have been hazed.
- 36 percent of students say they would not report hazing primarily because "there's no one to tell," and 27 percent feel that adults won't handle it right.
- As of February 12, 2010, the number of recorded hazing/pledging/rushing-related deaths in fraternities and sororities stands at 96–90 males and 6 females.
- 82 percent of deaths from hazing involve alcohol.
Examples of Hazing
How do you identify hazing? Since this method of initiation involves various types of actions, we list some common hazing practices below, as provided by the University of Arkansas:
- Requiring new members to perform unnecessary duties not assigned to existing members
- Required calisthenics such as sit-ups or push-ups, or other forms of physical exercise
- Sleep deprivation
- Assigning meaningless and sometimes impossible tasks
- Required “greeting” of members in a specific manner when seen on campus
- Required carrying of certain items
- Personal servitude or chores
- Lineups to interrogate, demean, or intimidate
- Wearing embarrassing or uncomfortable clothing
- Assigning pranks such as stealing, painting objects, or harassing other organizations
- Forced confinement, oftentimes involving very loud music and/or the repetition of a specific song
- Being dropped off somewhere and forced to find the way back
- Capturing or kidnapping
- Total or partial nudity
- Pushing, shoving, tackling, or any other physical contact
- Forced consumption of any liquid or food, often involving alcohol and/or gross food combinations
- Paddling or whipping
- Branding, cutting, labeling, or shaving parts of the body
Accused of Hazing?
Our defense attorneys are well-aware of the frequency and risks of hazing. Young people are often pressured into hazing others, but the police will still arrest suspects regardless of the circumstances that lead to their unlawful actions. However you ended up with hazing charges, know that you are not alone.
Contact our law firm at (201) 574-7919 if you or your child is accused of hazing. We will fight for you!