California Hazing Codes
Participating in a hazing crime in California is considered a serious offense. You could be charged with a misdemeanor hazing offense or a felony hazing offense depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime and whether someone died. If convicted, you could face jail time and/or fines and penalties. Under California Penal Code 245.6, a hazing crime must involve the following circumstances:
• Be part of an initiation or pre-initiation ceremony into a student organization or student body
• Involve serious bodily injury to a student at a school or college
• The hazing event does not include customary sanctioned athletic events or school events
This means that a hazing crime must occur in at school setting such as a high school of college sporting event or a sorority or fraternity pledging where upperclassmen or women are requiring freshmen to go through a series of tests. An example is the sports hazing death of Florida A & M drum major Robert Champion in 2011.
For criminal penalties to incur, serious bodily injury must include something like the following:
• Loss of consciousness
• A head injury such as a concussion
• A broken bone
• Loss or impairment of a body part
• A wound requiring extensive stitches
• Serious disfigurement
Even if someone is not seriously injured, if the hazing could cause a serious bodily injury to any student in school or college in the State of California, it is still considered a crime. However, a hazing incident which is considered humiliating or degrading would not be considered a crime under California Penal Code 245.6. Customary school athletic events or other events planned by the school administration are also not considered criminal hazing events.
When someone is seriously injured or dies as a result of a hazing event in California, the prosecutor has the discretion to charge anyone who participated in the hazing with either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the case and the defendant's prior criminal history.
If convicted of a misdemeanor hazing criminal in California, you could face a minimum fine of $100 to a maximum up to $5,000, and/or a one year jail sentence. If you are convicted of a felony hazing charge, you could face a minimum 16 months up to three years jail time. If you are a minor charged with a hazing offense, the case will be under the jurisdiction of the California Juvenile Court system instead of the California Criminal Court system.
A hazing victim or family of the victim may also file a civil lawsuit for damages against you or an organization that the victim was attempting to join if someone associated with the organization authorized the hazing incident. So you could face both a criminal and non-criminal civil proceeding.
Fighting Your Hazing Charges
If you are charged with a hazing offense in California regarding a high school or college hazing matter, a knowledgeable and experienced California criminal defense attorney can help you fight the charges by arguing strong defenses to try and get the charges reduced to a lesser crime or get the case dismissed so that you don't ruin your life and miss the opportunity to receive academic or athletic scholarships or other funding or jeopardize your changes of playing professional sports.