Hazing in Florida

Hazing in Florida can be a very serious matter, especially when it results in death.  Much attention has been brought to hazing since the death of Robert Champion, a FAMU drum major, in late 2011.  Just recently, the Orange County State Attorney’s Office announced they are charging 13 individuals in connection with his death.  With the spotlight now being turned upon their criminal prosecution, many people are unfamiliar with the criminal elements of hazing.

Most simply put, there are several different versions of the hazing law, depending upon the grade of the student(s).  Here is a list detailing the different versions of hazing:

Since the FAMU case deals with the collegiate level, this post will focus on postsecondary hazing, (Fla. Stat. 1006.63):

The postsecondary hazing statutes reads:

1006.63 Hazing prohibited.—

(1) As used in this section, “hazing” means any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for purposes including, but not limited to, initiation or admission into or affiliation with any organization operating under the sanction of a postsecondary institution. “Hazing” includes, but is not limited to, pressuring or coercing the student into violating state or federal law, any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance, or other forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student, and also includes any activity that would subject the student to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment, or other forced activity that could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the student. Hazing does not include customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions or any activity or conduct that furthers a legal and legitimate objective.

(2) A person commits hazing, a third degree felony, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s.775.083, when he or she intentionally or recklessly commits any act of hazing as defined in subsection (1) upon another person who is a member of or an applicant to any type of student organization and the hazing results in serious bodily injury or death of such other person.

(3) A person commits hazing, a first degree misdemeanor, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, when he or she intentionally or recklessly commits any act of hazing as defined in subsection (1) upon another person who is a member of or an applicant to any type of student organization and the hazing creates a substantial risk of physical injury or death to such other person.

(4) As a condition of any sentence imposed pursuant to subsection (2) or subsection (3), the court shall order the defendant to attend and complete a 4-hour hazing education course and may also impose a condition of drug or alcohol probation.

(5) It is not a defense to a charge of hazing that:

(a) The consent of the victim had been obtained;

(b) The conduct or activity that resulted in the death or injury of a person was not part of an official organizational event or was not otherwise sanctioned or approved by the organization; or

(c) The conduct or activity that resulted in death or injury of the person was not done as a condition of membership to an organization.

(6) This section shall not be construed to preclude prosecution for a more general offense resulting from the same criminal transaction or episode.

(7) Public and nonpublic postsecondary educational institutions whose students receive state student financial assistance must adopt a written antihazing policy and under such policy must adopt rules prohibiting students or other persons associated with any student organization from engaging in hazing.

(8) Public and nonpublic postsecondary educational institutions must provide a program for the enforcement of such rules and must adopt appropriate penalties for violations of such rules, to be administered by the person at the institution responsible for the sanctioning of such organizations.

(a) Such penalties at Florida College System institutions and state universities may include the imposition of fines; the withholding of diplomas or transcripts pending compliance with the rules or pending payment of fines; and the imposition of probation, suspension, or dismissal.

(b) In the case of an organization at a Florida College System institution or state university that authorizes hazing in blatant disregard of such rules, penalties may also include rescission of permission for that organization to operate on campus property or to otherwise operate under the sanction of the institution.

(c) All penalties imposed under the authority of this subsection shall be in addition to any penalty imposed for violation of any of the criminal laws of this state or for violation of any other rule of the institution to which the violator may be subject.

(9) Rules adopted pursuant hereto shall apply to acts conducted on or off campus whenever such acts are deemed to constitute hazing.

(10) Upon approval of the antihazing policy of a Florida College System institution or state university and of the rules and penalties adopted pursuant thereto, the institution shall provide a copy of such policy, rules, and penalties to each student enrolled in that institution and shall require the inclusion of such policy, rules, and penalties in the bylaws of every organization operating under the sanction of the institution.

To read the history of Florida’s hazing law, click here.

(This post is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.)

~At Matthews Law Firm, P.A., we represent criminal defendants in central Florida, including Lakeland, Bartow, Winter Haven, Orlando, Tampa and Sarasota.~

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