Hazing Law Criminal Defense Attorneys Union County, New Jersey
Hazing is a ritual of initiation that has existed in groups across high school and college campuses for a long time.
It is defined as a rite of passage based in a tradition whose practices vary yet are generally conducted to instill a sense of fraternal bond while affirming a hierarchy in the group. Hazing initiations vary in their degree, yet recently in New Jersey, hazing has become publicly scrutinized as their rituals have reached dangerous levels and have even included sexual assault.
Psychologist Dr. Susan Lipkins gathered evidence that 91 percent of students in high school are part of a group, and more than half of them have reported being involved in a hazing ritual.
What is New Jersey law regarding hazing?
In 1980, New Jersey became the first state in the country to implement an anti-hazing law, as a result of the prevalence of reported hazing incidents. NJ Revised Statute Section 2C:40-3 states that if a person facilitates hazing conduct that places another in physical danger, they can face a disorderly persons charge. Furthermore, a person can receive a fourth-degree crime charge – aggravated hazing – if, upon placing another in physical danger during a facilitated hazing ritual, the victim is in fact injured.
Under the law, there are multiple acts of hazing that could result in a disorderly person or aggravated hazing charge:
- Physical assault
- Sexual assault
- Forcing of the consumption of alcohol or drugs
- Other dangerous actions, pursuant to court review
What sentence does someone face for being found guilty of a hazing charge?
A defendant facing a hazing charge cannot use consent as a defense. This means that no matter if the person placed in harm’s way allowed the action in order to participate in the initiation, the accused will still face the results of their actions. Having an experienced attorney supporting the court process of a hazing charge is imperative, as the navigation of such charges involving “other dangerous actions” requires skilled legal handling.
A person who is found guilty in the municipal court of a disorderly persons charge may, with the support of a skilled attorney, receive an intervention program as their primary sentence. At the lower court level, usually, jail time is not sentenced. However, in the case of aggravated hazing and causing injury to another through the facilitation of dangerous hazing ritual, a person can be sentenced to as much as 18 months jail time and steep fines of up to $10,000.
New Jersey Hazing Cases
New Jersey has seen its share of hazing cases that have gained public attention for the wider presence of these practices in state high schools and colleges, causing danger and harm to its young people. Public attention has supported a shift in hazing culture in a small way, yet Dr. Lipkins found that more than 250,000 students in college alone have reported participating in hazing rituals in order to be accepted into a group, revealing the vast presence the practice has, attention or not.
The roots of hazing in New Jersey go back far, first revealed in Bergen County, NJ, in the 1980s when a university’s football athletes were charged with forcing another team player to engage in a sexual act in front of others. This case was one major cause of the implementation of NJ Revised Statute Section 2C:40-3 in New Jersey.
In 2007, a recruit to New Jersey’s Rider University fraternity died of alcohol poisoning after a hazing ritual. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has found that just over one of every four students in universities participates in alcohol consumption. While that number represents a decline in drinking culture, fraternities and other groups have continued to use hazing rituals as a way to force the consumption of alcohol for its members and prospective members.
In 2014 in Sayreville, New Jersey (Middlesex County), a high school football program was highlighted nationwide when members of the team sexually assaulted and hazed other members of the team. The result was a cancelled season for the football program, a dirtied reputation for the high school, aggravated hazing charges for a number of players, and the withdrawn invitation of a Penn State scholarship for one of the team’s football stars.
Consult our Experienced Attorneys for your case
At Edward Cooper, our team of attorneys is experienced in representing students across our clients in Rahway, Clark, Roselle Park, Garwood, Elizabeth, Cranford, Edison, and across New Jersey in all manner of hazing charges, including municipal disorderly persons charges and the more serious aggravated hazing charges.
We are committed to ensuring a swift and just outcome that allows youth to focus on their studies and continue their education. To consult with a member of our team in a confidential case assessment, please contact us online or call the Linden office (908) 481-4625.