According to California Penal Code 245.6 (PC-245.6) it is illegal to participate in initiation activities that are likely to cause serious bodily injury to a current, former or prospective student.
The law applies to any student body or student organization regardless of whether it is officially recognized by an educational institution or not.
To be Found Guilty of Penal Code 245.6 Hazing in California
The following elements of the crime must be proven by a prosecutor.
- Defendant participated in activity that was part of an initiation ritual into a student organization or body
- Defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the activity was likely to cause serious bodily injury
- Hazing activity took place at a school or school setting
- Hazing activity was not a school sanctioned event or a part of a customary school’s athletic event
Initiation or Pre-Initiation Ceremony in California Hazing Cases
Hazing must be a part of an initiation or pre-initiation ceremony and must be focused either on people seeking membership to the group or on people who have just joined the group.
Criminal Hazing Examples
In case all other elements are met the following hazing actions can be considered criminal:
- Physical beatings
- Extreme sleep deprivation
- Forced drinking of copious amounts of alcohol
- Eating foods designed to induce vomiting
- Drinking and driving
- Running for extended periods of time
- Eating garbage
Serious bodily injury
Under California criminal law “serious bodily injury” is a serious impairment of physical condition. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of consciousness
- Impairment or loss of function of an organ or another body part
- Bone fracture
- Serious disfigurement
- Wound requiring extensive suturing
Activities that result exclusively in embarrassment or emotional injury do not count as hazing under Penal Code Section 245.6.
Penalties for violating California Penal Code 245.6
Penalties for violating California Penal Code Section 245.6 are as follows
Misdemeanor Penalties for Penal Code 245.6
In California law crime of hazing is considered a misdemeanor offence when it does not actually result in serious bodily injury to anyone. The penalties are the following:
- Up to one year in a county jail
- A fine from $100 to $5,000
Wobbler Offense Under Penal Code 245.6
In case hazing has caused death or serious bodily injury, then everyone who personally participated in the crime of hazing can be charged with a wobbler. Prosecutor can choose to charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the defendant’s criminal history and the case facts.
Penalties for hazing as a misdemeanor will be the same as above mentioned.
Penalties for Felony Conviction of Penal Code 245.6
Penalties for Felony conviction of Penal Code 245.6 include
- Sixteen months, two or three years in a county jail
- Possible sentence realignment under Penal Code Section 1170(h)
Juvenile Court System
Because hazing takes place in a school setting usually the defendants are under the age of 18, and instead of being tried in criminal courts their case will generally be handled in the California juvenile court system. The penalties for a person under the age of 18 are less harsh and are aimed more to rehabilitate him rather than punish. Potential penalties for a juvenile offender are the following:
- Deferred entry of judgment for dismissal of charges after completion of court-ordered program
- Informal probation
- Probation at a facility for youthful offenders or a formal probation at home
California Criminal Hazing Defense Lawyer
Have you been arrested for hazing? If you are in or around Los Angeles County, a Glendale criminal defense attorney at KAASS LAW can provide you with legal assistance.