Many sports groups, fraternities, sororities, bands, and other organizations in Mecklenburg County have initiation ceremonies that applicants must go through to join the group. Unfortunately, these ceremonies can get out of hand, and students being initiated at universities, college organizations, and clubs in the Charlotte area may be injured.
If you or a family member participated in a right-of-passage ceremony where someone was hurt, you could be charged with hazing. You need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights and defend you so that you avoid the harsh punishments and long-term consequences you face if you are convicted.
What Is Hazing in North Carolina?
Hazing is a misdemeanor offense in our state. Under N.C.G.S. 14.35, students at a university, college, or school are prohibited from engaging in or aiding and abetting in hazing. Hazing is defined as subjecting another student to physical violence as part of an initiation or as a prerequisite to membership in any organized school group. An organized school group is broadly defined and includes any society, athletic team, fraternity, sorority, or other similar group.
What Are the Different Types of Hazing That Can Be Considered a Crime?
Hazing can take many forms. Not all would subject a member of the organization to potential criminal charges. They include the following:
Subtle hazing is a less obvious form of hazing and often does not subject another student to physical violence. Because of the lack of physical violence, students may not be charged with hazing but could face disciplinary actions at their university, college, or school. Examples of this type of hazing include:
- Requiring a student to perform certain duties
- Making a new member undergo social isolation
- Engaging in name-calling
- Making applicants keep specific possessions with them at all times
- Not allowing a student to study or follow their school schedule
Harassment hazing is more serious than subtle hazing and can cause the new member to suffer emotional distress or physical discomfort. In extreme cases, they could suffer injuries. However, there is often no physical violence, so it is less likely that anyone participating would face hazing charges. Harassment hazing can include:
- Making threatening comments to the new member
- Requiring the new member to perform duties, like cooking and cleaning, for other students in the group
- Making students wear embarrassing clothes
- Depriving the applicant of sleep
- Not allowing the student to engage in their regular schedule of personal hygiene
Violent hazing is the most dangerous type of hazing, and students may be arrested for hazing. It can subject a new member to physical violence and cause them to suffer severe injuries or death. Examples of this form of hazing include:
- Forcing students to be exposed to extreme weather
- Forcing applicants to participate in physical activities—often for extended periods of time
- Making students eat or drink in excess
- Blindfolding students and requiring them to walk on a designated path
- Requiring new members to consume alcohol or drugs
- Physically assaulting new applicants
- Forcing new members to engage in a criminal act, such as shoplifting
What Are the Penalties for Hazing?
Hazing is a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina. A student can be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail or prison if convicted. In addition, they could also be ordered to pay fines and court costs and be placed on probation.
What Other Criminal Charges Could a Student Accused of Hazing Face?
Unfortunately, a student arrested for hazing could also be charged with more serious crimes in North Carolina if the new member suffered injuries or died. Offenses associated with hazing include:
- False imprisonment
- Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter