Is Hazing Illegal?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on December 27, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Florida A & M University's marching band recently came under scrutiny after one of its members  died after a reported illegal hazing ritual. The tragic incident brought hazing laws back into the spotlight.

Many college students participate in fraternities and sororities. Pledges generally view hazing as a "rite of passage" that all members need to get through.

Yet many do not realize that the actions taken by their classmates could be criminal. Around 44 states have passed hazing laws.

The specific statutes vary by state, but the general provisions typically are the same. Some states that have hazing laws make "hazing" illegal in the penal code.

In California for example, hazing is defined as any method if initiation or pre-initiation into a student organization or student body that causes or is likely to cause serious bodily injury.

Individuals who violate these laws can be subject to prison time depending on the jurisdiction. Typically, victims of hazing can also file civil lawsuits against the perpetrators and the student organizations that organized the ritual.

Even in states that don't have hazing laws you could still face criminal and civil liability. It's possible that traditional assault and battery charges could be brought if the hazing involves physical contact.

State hazing laws aren't the only rules in place that bar hazing. The practice is banned on most school's campuses . Many universities will suspend chapters that engage in illegal hazing.

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