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Title IX & Student Conduct Code Blog

Duffy Law

Hazing Violations Are Bringing Stiffer Penalties

Virtually all colleges and universities prohibit hazing, and most states make it a criminal offense. Nonetheless, fraternities, sororities, sports teams, and other student organizations continue to engage in conduct that may fall within the definition of hazing, often resulting in serious criminal penalties to the people involved. In addition, schools can impose serious sanctions against students who engage in hazing, including probation, changes to housing arrangements, loss of financial aid or scholarships, suspension, or even expulsion.

What Is Hazing?

Broadly speaking, hazing requires people to engage in painful, dangerous, humiliating, or rigorous tasks to gain admittance to an organization. People have practiced these initiation rituals for centuries, and only recently have schools and legislators taken steps to prevent hazing. Conduct that schools could consider hazing includes:

  • Forcing someone to drink alcohol
  • Kidnapping
  • Forcing someone to engage in sexual activities
  • Paddling or whipping
  • Physical violence
  • Requiring someone to wear inappropriate clothes
  • Verbal abuse
  • Deprivation of privileges
  • Name calling
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Confinement

States have their own definitions of hazing, which can differ significantly. Connecticut law defines hazing as “any action which recklessly or intentionally endangers the health or safety of a person for the purpose of initiation, admission into or affiliation with, or as a condition for continued membership in a student organization.”

If You Face Hazing Accusations, Retain Legal Counsel

The relatively broad definition of hazing can lead to allegations after events that seem innocent to those unfamiliar with the law (or the definition contained in a school’s code of conduct). In addition, many people still engage in overt hazing rituals out of a sense of tradition or due to significant peer pressure.

If you are accused of hazing by your school or by law enforcement, say as little as possible until you speak to an attorney. In fact, when it comes to the police, if you ask for a lawyer, the law requires them to stop asking you questions about the incident until you retain legal counsel.

Once you face formal hazing allegations, what you say and do typically cannot help you—it can only hurt you. Refrain from discussing the matter with other members of your organization, because you never know who is working with school or law enforcement authorities to minimize their own consequences. In addition, do not delete, destroy, or share anything that could constitute evidence, because that could result in additional legal problems. Finally, have your attorney contact your fraternity, sorority, or other organization’s national legal counsel, if applicable.

Not every hazing allegation is justified, and increased national focus on the issue often results in catching up innocent people in overly broad hazing investigations and imposing severe penalties. In addition, the conduct at issue (or your particular role in it) may not fall within the legal definition of hazing that the school or law enforcement authorities use. For this reason, in many cases, an attorney can have a significant impact on how you resolve your hazing case.

Call Duffy Law to Speak with a College Hazing Defense Attorney Today

Public attitudes toward hazing have significantly shifted during recent years, and colleges, universities, and state courts have begun imposing serious penalties against people who violate codes of conduct and the law. Furthermore, the consequences of a hazing conviction can harm you long after any sanctions imposed by your school or a court have ended.

If a school or law enforcement accuses you of hazing, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. At Duffy Law, our team of college code violation and criminal defense lawyers represent people accused of hazing and other violations related to student conduct. To schedule a consultation with a member of our team, call our office today at (203) 946-2000 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Felice Duffy

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Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.