Under Florida law, "hazing" is defined as any activity that abuses, endangers, degrades, or humiliates a person, regardless of a person's willingness to participate. Hazing is prohibited by Florida Statutes § 1006.63. Many of these allegations are made against students in Greek organizations on college campuses throughout Florida.
Students in Florida can face disciplinary action after committing any of the following acts:
- Passively participating in any activity related to hazing;
- Having knowledge of any activity related to hazing; or
- Actively participating in any activity related to hazing.
Colleges, universities, and even high schools, now take the view that even apathy or acquiescence in the presence of hazing is not a neutral act. Instead, apathy or acquiescence in the presence of hazing is considered a serious violation of the Student Code of Conduct that can subject the student to disciplinary action.
Incidents of dangerous hazing can also be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense under Florida law. The first-degree misdemeanor version of hazing requires proof that the act of hazing created a substantial risk of physical injury or death. The third-degree felony version of hazing requires proof that the act of hazing actually resulted in serious bodily injury or death.
Attorneys for Hazing Accusations in Tallahassee, FL
The attorneys at Pumphrey Law represent clients accused of "hazing" in the colleges and universities in Tallahassee and throughout North Florida including Florida State University (FSU) and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU).
Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law in Tallahassee, FL, in Leon County, to discuss accusations of hazing. Local law enforcement officers and school officials aggressively investigate these incidents. You also need a criminal defense attorney to aggressively protect a student from any accusation of a student code of conduct violation or a criminal offense under Florida law.
Call Pumphrey Law today to discuss your case.
Investigations into Hazing in Florida
Universities and colleges in Florida do not tolerate any acts of hazing by any fraternity, sorority, student organization teams, students, or any member of the educational institution's community. Allegations of hazing frequently arise in instances of:
- pledging into a student organization;
- being initiated into a student organization;
- developing an affiliation with a student organization;
- holding office in a student organization; or
- maintaining membership in any student organization.
Hazing involves actions committed under the under the sanction of a postsecondary institution such as a local college or university, including FAMU or FSU in Tallahassee, Leon County, FL.
Florida Statute 1006.63(1) on Hazing
Under Florida Statute Section 1006.63 (1), the term "hazing" is defined to include but is not necessarily limited to the following acts:
- pressuring a student into violating any state or federal law;
- coercing the student into violating any state or federal law;
- any brutality of a physical nature including:
- exposure to the elements;
- forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance; or
- other forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student;
- any activity that would subject the student to extreme mental stress, such as:
- forced conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment;
- sleep deprivation;
- forced exclusion from social contact;
- other forced activity that could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the student.
Any activity as described above upon which the initiation or admission into or affiliation with a university organization is directly or indirectly conditioned shall be presumed to be "forced" activity, the willingness of an individual to participate in such activity notwithstanding.
The definition of "hazing" under Florida law does not include "customary athletic events" or other similar contests or competitions or any activity or conduct that furthers a legal and legitimate objective.
The Chad Meredith Act
Under the Chad Meredith Act, an accusation of dangerous hazing can be charged as a criminal offense. The Bill was named after a University of Miami freshman who drowned in a campus lake while trying to join a fraternity in 2001.
Florida's Chad Meredith Act, found in Florida Statute 1006.63 (2), punishes hazing that results in serious injury or death as a felony, punishable by up to five (5) years in prison, even if the victim consents to the activity.
If you are under investigation for any criminal act after an incident of hazing that resulted in death or serious bodily injury, do NOT talk to any law enforcement officer until after you have spoken with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The criminal defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law can help you protect your rights and represent you at every stage of a criminal investigation into hazing at a local college or university.
Penalties for the Felony Offense of Hazing
Under Florida Statute Section 1006.62(2), the crime of hazing can be charged as a third-degree felony which is punishable by up to five years in Florida Statute Prison or a fine of $5,000.
The crime of hazing occurs when a student commits the act of hazing "intentionally or recklessly" that results in the serious bodily injury or death of another person who is a member of or an applicant to any type of student organization.
The crime of hazing can also be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor when the defendant intentionally or recklessly commits any act of hazing that creates a substantial risk of physical injury or death upon another person who is a member of or an applicant to any type of student organization.
After a conviction for hazing, the judge is required to order the defendant to attend and complete a four-hour hazing education course and may also impose a condition of drug or alcohol probation.
Defenses to Hazing in Florida
Florida law in Statue Section 1006.62(5) provides that it is not a defense to a charge of hazing that:
- The consent of the victim had been obtained;
- The conduct or activity that resulted in the death or injury of a person was not part of an official organizational event or was not otherwise sanctioned or approved by the organization; or
- The conduct or activity that resulted in death or injury of the person was not done as a condition of membership to an organization.
The prosecutor is also allowed to charge any other criminal offense that was committed during the same episode.
Antihazing Policies in Florida
Local colleges and universities in Florida that receive State student financial assistance are required under Florida law to adopt written antihazing policies. Such antihazing policies must adopt rules that prohibit students or other persons associated with any student organization from engaging in hazing.
Schools must provide a program for the enforcement of such rules and must adopt appropriate penalties for violations of such rules, to be administered by the person at the institution responsible for the sanctioning of such organizations. Those penalties can include:
- the imposition of fines;
- the withholding of diplomas or transcripts pending compliance with the rules or pending payment of fines; and
- the imposition of probation, suspension, or dismissal.
If an organization in a college or university is "authorizing hazing" in blatant disregard of such rules, then penalties may be imposed including the rescission of permission for that organization to operate on campus property or to otherwise operate under the sanction of the institution.
Recent Statistics on Hazing in the United States
According to the Novak Institute on Hazing at the University of Kentucky, recent statistics on hazing incidents on college campuses show that 95% of students that experiencing hazing do not report it to campus officials. The main reason why hazing incident are not reported to campus officials is that 9 of 10 students involved in these incidents do not consider themselves to be victims of hazing.
Recent statistics on hazing on college campus show that:
- 50 percent of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations have experienced hazing
- More than 70 percent of these students are involved in athletics and social fraternity or sororities; and
- More than 60 percent of these students are involved in campus clubs.
The most frequently reported types of hazing behaviors include:
- drinking games;
- singing or chanting in a public setting;
- drinking large amounts of alcohol to the point of getting sick or passing out;
- sleep deprived; and
- screaming, yelling or cursing at other members.
These incidents are not reported because the students involved in the hazing incidents:
- do not want to get the team or group in trouble;
- are afraid of negative consequences to them as a group member;
- are afraid they would become an outsider if other group members found out;
- do not know where to report hazing; and
- felt they may be hurt by other group members if hazing was reported.
Florida Law Prohibiting Hazing in F.S. 1006.63 - Visit the website of the Florida Legislature to find the complete statutory language for Florida Statute Section 1006.63 which prohibits hazing. Find the definition of hazing.
Chad Meredith Act - Visit the website of Florida Statute University (FSU) to learn more about Florida law on hazing under the Chad Meredith Act.
FAMU Hazing Settlement in Tallahassee - In 2004, the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, FL, settled a civil suit regarding a 1998 incident where a member of the Marching 100 band was paddled 300 times. The student required hospitalization and is permanently injured. Yeager, Melanie “Settlement Reached in Hazing Complaint” Tallahassee Democrat, February 11, 2004.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, July 11, 2017.
Attorney Don Pumphrey Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney.