Scared student on knees

“Hazing” as a Crime

Hazing is something that has been around in this country for over 300 years.

Events around California resulted in a law that defined circumstances under which hazing could be considered a crime.  If you are charged with this crime, you’ll need the help of a good bondsman. Here is how the criminal hazing law works in California.

Criminal Hazing Must Involve Student Organizations

Criminal hazing has a very narrow definition. It is important to understand that the criminal hazing laws in California are meant exclusively to protect students. The hazing has to occur as part of some ceremony or ritual that is intended as part of initiation or is done for new members of a student organization. People who are hazed attempting to get into a non-student organization are not covered by the law.

Sanctioned School Events and Sports Events Exception

Two very large exceptions apply to the criminal hazing laws. Any type of hazing that occurs at a school-sanctioned event is not criminal. This is an event that the school has explicitly set up and run. Hazing that occurs at regular school sporting events is not criminal either. Other charges might be brought such as assault although criminal hazing does not apply in these instances.

What Makes Hazing Criminal?

The main element that makes hazing criminal is if the activity is likely to cause someone serious bodily harm. Serious bodily harm includes losing consciousness, severing a body part, disfigurement or breaking a bone. It also includes death. The law states that if a student could be seriously harmed by the hazing, then it is criminal. The acts are criminal even if the student is never hurt or is from another school. The only thing that matters criminally is the potential for bodily harm.

Deciding Between Misdemeanor and Felony Charges

Criminal hazing can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. If no one was injured at the hazing, then it will likely be a misdemeanor. California prosecutors do have the discretion to elevate charges to a felony under the rules for a wobbler offense. The specifics of the case and the personal judgment of the prosecutor are the main factors that will decide between a felony and misdemeanor.

Potential Penalties

The potential penalties for criminal hazing are harsh. Misdemeanor charges could lead to a fine of up to $5,000 or as much as a year in jail. Felony offenders could be in jail for anywhere from 16 months to three years. Students charged with criminal hazing will be arrested and held in jail until trial. The only way out of this is to post bail. Posting bail involves contacting a bail bond agency. A bondsman is paid a small percentage of the total bail amount. The bondsman provides the rest of the bail the court. The defendant will be released from jail at that point. The only responsibility the defendant has after that is to make all court appearances on time until the trial ends.

Civil Actions Afterwards

The criminal hazing law allows victims to sue the perpetrators in civil court for damages. This means people charged with criminal hazing could be sued for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars by the victim. The family of the victim can even file civil charges if the actual victim died from the hazing.

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