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Be Careful, Frats and Teams Because Hazing Is a Crime in Ohio

Immortalized by movies and books, the practice of hazing seemed to be a relic of the past. A recent story from Athens, Ohio shows that isn’t the case. All practices and matches of the Ohio University men’s water polo team have been suspended until an investigation is completed into allegations that the team was involved in hazing activities. The dean of students noted that hazing is a violation of the university’s code of conduct and Ohio law.

Hazing under Ohio law

Hazing is indeed a violation of Ohio law. It is not just a civil offense, but a crime as well. Under the law, if you coerce someone as part of an initiation to do some activity that creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any other person, you have committed the crime of hazing. Hazing is a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

The hazing net can also sweep up other participants. It includes those who recklessly participate in hazing. Employees, including teachers and administrators, of any school where the hazing took place may also be liable.

Mentally and physically abusive activities that could fall under the definition of hazing include the following:

  • Forcing the victim to dress in a humiliating fashion
  • Forcing the victim to act as a servant to others
  • Forcing the victim to consume excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Forcing the victim to endure physical beatings
  • Forcing the victim to be exposed to extreme heat or cold

Hazing has civil and criminal penalties

While the penalty for hazing is not severe, educational administrators take it very seriously because of the possible civil liability arising from the same acts. There is a civil hazing statute and a criminal statute. Once a school is found liable for hazing under criminal law, it follows that liability is almost certain to be found under the looser evidence standards of civil law. The result could be significant monetary damages against all the participants in the hazing, not just school or university employees, but team and fraternity members as well.

If you have been charged with hazing, you must view the charge very seriously. Not only can you have a criminal conviction on your record that can adversely affect your future employment, but it may be the first step toward liability in a civil suit. The Columbus Ohio criminal defense attorneys at Yavitch & Palmer Co., LPA are experienced and skilled in representing clients charged with misdemeanors in Ohio courts.

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