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Hazing in California


Hazing is a common tradition among fraternity, sports teams, and other social clubs in high school and college campuses throughout California and the rest of the United States. Although hazing can create strong and lasting bonds between group members, it is also considered a criminal offense.

The following are the three most common forms of hazing:

  • Subtle hazing – Common examples include name calling, assigning meaningless or impossible tasks, isolating new members, making new members carry certain items, or sleep deprivation.
  • Harassment hazing – Common examples include being subject to insults and verbal abuse, wearing humiliating or embarrassing clothing, performing chores for older members, pulling pranks on behalf of the organization, or forced confinement
  • Violent hazing – Common examples include forced alcohol or drug consumption, water intoxication, public nudity, branding, beating, paddling, or kidnapping.

In 2006, California lawmakers passed Penal Code 245.6 PC to make hazing a crime throughout the state. This law was enacted in the aftermath of Matthew Carrington’s death. Then 21-year-old college student passed way after members of a fraternity in California State University-Chico made him drink excessive amounts of water and perform calisthenics, while being blasted with cold air and drenched in more water.

The prosecution must prove all the following elements to convict a defendant of hazing:

  • The defendant was involved in or had influence in activity associated with initiating someone into a student organization.
  • The defendant knew or reasonably should’ve known that the activity would result in serious injury.
  • The activity had no affiliation with the school.

Hazing can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony offense based on the circumstances of the case. If the act doesn’t involve serious injury, it is considered a misdemeanor that carries a jail term of up to 364 days and a maximum $5,000 fine. If hazing results in a serious injury or death, it can be charged as a felony offense, punishable by a maximum three-year jail term and a fine of up to $5,000.

A conviction can also result in additional charges, such as aggravated assault or involuntary manslaughter.

If you have been charged with hazing in Santa Barbara or Ventura County, contact Appel & Morse and schedule a free criminal consultation today.

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