Damico & Stockstill, Attorneys at Law

Hazing now carries more severe penalties

In recent years, the problem of hazing has come to the attention of the public as the media covered a series of deaths related to initiation rituals on college campuses, including Louisiana State University. Hazing occurs when members of a team or organization subject new members to humiliating rituals, often involving the consumption of dangerous amounts of alcohol.

If you have participated in or witnessed hazing, you may have thought it was all in good fun. In fact, if you went through it yourself as a freshman, you probably feel it is a necessary part of the bonding experience for your fraternity, club or team. However, the recent tragedies have shown that things quickly get out of hand, especially when alcohol is involved, and you should be aware of recent changes in state laws related to hazing.

Penalties under the new laws

Hazing is now a felony in Louisiana if it results in someone's death. In fact, the governor recently signed four new laws related to hazing, and it is important that you understand the risks you take for participating in such events, including:

  • If someone dies with a blood alcohol level of .30 or higher, anyone convicted of the hazing faces five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
  • Hazing that does not result in death is still a misdemeanor, and you may face a six-month prison sentence and $1,000 fine for participating.
  • Your Greek organization, team or club that allows or promotes hazing could end up paying $10,000 in fines.
  • Your university must take action against you if you are engaged in hazing activities, including suspending or expelling you from school.

You may have already participated in some of the new requirements the Louisiana Board of Regents imposed across the state, including mandating hazing education for all clubs and organizations on campus.

Do the right thing

If you witness someone in distress following a hazing incident, you may think about the above penalties as well as the possibility that you may get kicked out of school and other consequences if you call for help, even if you did not participate in the hazing. However, the new laws grant amnesty to anyone who acts responsibly during an emergency, such as rendering aid or calling emergency services. In fact, if you fail to do these things, you may face severe consequences, especially if the person in distress dies.

If you are involved in a hazing incident or are present when such activities occur, you may have justifiable fear for your future. Prosecutors may be eager to make examples under the new hazing laws, so seeking the advice of an attorney as early as possible would be in your best interest.

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