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Participating in hazing can lead to serious charges

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2024 | Criminal Defense

The ritual of hazing a new or prospective member of a fraternity, club or sports team is certainly nothing new. However, in the wake of fatalities and catastrophic injuries caused by hazing, a number of states have enacted laws that define and broadly prohibit this practice.

These laws typically include requirements that schools, including colleges and universities, must have clear written policies addressing hazing and the sanctions that both individuals and organizations found guilty of it may face.

How does Minnesota law address hazing?

Minnesota law defines hazing as “committing an act against a student, or coercing a student into committing an act, that creates a substantial risk of harm to a person in order for the student to be initiated into or affiliated with a student organization.”

Minnesota doesn’t currently have a law against “hazing” itself, as some states do. However, hazing incidents can lead to plenty of other criminal charges — from supplying alcohol to a minor to assault and even manslaughter. The type of criminal charges a person who has participated in a hazing activity may face will depend on what occurred and how seriously someone was harmed as a result of the misconduct in question. For example, many hazing rituals involve coercing or forcing someone to drink a toxic amount of alcohol.

One case of hazing and its aftermath

Consider a case involving a young Minnesota man who was a freshman at the University of Missouri that garnered a lot of media attention a couple of years ago. The young man, from Eden Prairie, was left blind and unable to walk or speak after a hazing ritual that “went terribly wrong,” as his mother put it. She said, “They forced him to drink large amounts of alcohol…[and] threw him on a couch” to sleep if off, but he was “laying there dying.”

In the wake of this incident, his parents are working with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is co-sponsoring legislation in Congress that would require schools to disclose the number of hazing incidents that have occurred on campus. This can help parents and prospective students better determine whether this is a safe place for them to be – or at least steer them away from certain fraternities and other groups.

It can be all too easy for a young person to get caught involved in a hazing event that turns tragic even if they had no intention of harming someone. Alcohol and peer pressure can be a deadly combination. If your child is facing assault or other charges related to a hazing incident, it’s crucial to protect their legal rights by seeking professional guidance as soon as you possibly can.

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