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“Good Fun” Gone Bad: The Criminal Offense of Hazing

Recently, police responded to Rider University after receiving a report that a naked run was about to take place. When police officers arrived on the scene, they found several cross-country team members preparing to run naked laps. Rider University immediately launched an investigation, which led the university to suspended the entire men’s cross-country team for an incident the university considered hazing. Although hazing frequently occurs on college campuses, it can also occur in middle and high schools. While it appears Rider University’s act of hazing is not likely to result in criminal charges, hazing can lead to serious consequences.

What does hazing mean?

The Hazing Prevention Organization defines hazing as any action taken or situation created to intentionally cause embarrassment, harassment or ridicule. It is often used as a method of initiation into a group or organization, including sports teams, schools, military units, fraternities and sororities. In many instances, individuals who are unwilling to participate are not permitted entry into the group or organization.

Many individuals believe that hazing is all in good fun. The problem with hazing is that some of the required actions are dangerous and create a substantial risk of injury or death to the participants. If this occurs anyone involved may be charged criminally.

Criminal Consequences

New Jersey’s Code of Criminal Justice governs all criminal acts. New Jersey Code section 2C:40-3 outlines the criminal offense of hazing. A person may be convicted of hazing if the individual knowingly or recklessly organizes, promotes, facilitates, or engages in conduct that places another in danger of harm. Hazing is a disorderly persons offense, potentially subjecting the offender to a maximum of six months in jail. However, the same individual may be charged with aggravated hazing if the conduct results in serious bodily injury. In aggravated circumstances, a person found guilty will be convicted of a crime of the fourth degree, subjecting that individual to a maximum of 18 months in jail.

In the event that death results from an incident of hazing, the individuals involved may be charged with manslaughter. Grounds for second degree manslaughter may exist when an individual recklessly causes death. It is an offense that carries a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years.

Manslaughter may also be charged in its aggravated form. Aggravated manslaughter may be charged when an individual recklessly causes death under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life. This offense is a first degree crime that carries a prison sentence of 10 to 30 years.

The Importance of an Attorney

If you are charged with hazing or manslaughter as a result of an allegation of hazing, you need the guidance of an attorney. This is especially true when charged with hazing as your rights are limited because defendants do not have the right to a jury trial. Attorney Murphy has the knowledge and experience to protect your rights. Contact our office in Rockland County today for an initial consultation.

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