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A hazing charge may be just the beginning if things turn deadly

On Behalf of | Aug 14, 2023 | Criminal Defense

All across Maryland, young people are preparing to begin or head back to college. Most of them don’t plan to engage in hazing. Unfortunately, every year, hazing “rituals” occur in fraternities (and sometimes sororities), on sports teams and in clubs and other groups on and around college campuses. 

Too often, young people suffer serious harm or even die as a result of overzealous and reckless hazing. That’s why most states, including Maryland, have enacted anti-hazing laws. Some are stronger than others.

What does Maryland law say?

Maryland’s law states, “A person may not recklessly or intentionally do an act or create a situation that subjects a student to the risk of serious bodily injury for the purpose of an initiation into a student organization of a school, college, or university.” The crime is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. 

The law notes that “implied or express consent of a student to hazing is not a defense….” Even if all pledges to a fraternity knew they’d be required to drink a bottle of vodka, that doesn’t let those off the hook who pressured them to do so.

Schools impose their own penalties

A hazing conviction, or even a charge, will likely bring serious consequences to the school as well. For example, the University of Maryland defines hazing essentially the same way as the state does, but adds the components of “severe emotional distress, or causing or encouraging any person to commit an act that would be a violation of law or university regulations.” The university notes that it doesn’t matter whether the hazing occurs on or off campus.

More serious charges may be filed

While the criminal consequences of violating the state’s hazing law may not seem particularly serious, remember that, as we noted, hazing incidents can become injurious and even deadly. Young people have died from alcohol poisoning or some other complication from drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short time. Other types of harm can befall them if they’re left alone in a highly intoxicated state. 

Those involved in a hazing incident can face charges as serious as manslaughter if it’s determined that they contributed to someone’s death. If your child is arrested for a hazing incident, it’s crucial that they have legal guidance to protect their rights and present their case..