Hazing Laws In New Jersey
Hazing in New Jersey is governed by N.J.S.A. 2C:40-3 and is a disorderly person offense when it's connected to pledging some form of organization. For example a fraternity or joining a sports team. You will be found guilty if you have knowingly put the pledge in a situation that could possibly cause them physical harm. The charge will be upgraded to aggravated hazing if the person while in the process of pledging is actually harmed in the process.
Can this charge be defended?
Yes, it is possible to defend against this charge. The statute prohibits activity that is done “knowingly or recklessly” which means that negligent activity is not prohibited. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to show the prosecutor the defendant was not aware of the risk he was causing (negligence) which may weaken or destroy the prosecutor's case. Additionally, the legislature explicitly states that consent is not a defense to a hazing charge.
What's the difference between Recklessly and Negligently?
The difference between the two, in the legal sense, is that the defendant was not aware of the risk he was causing when acting negligently. When acting recklessly, the defendant was aware of the risk and consciously disregarded it. This explains why penalties are typically harsher for a crime committed recklessly as opposed to negligently.
What are the penalties?
The penalties for hazing in New Jersey depend on the risk to the “victim” and whether or not “serious bodily injury” occurred. For an activity that places the victim at risk (other than competitive athletic events), the charge is a disorderly persons offense. This can be punished by 6 months in a county jail and a $1,000 fine. But, if the victim suffers seriously bodily injury, the charge is upgraded to aggravated hazing and is a 4th degree crime. A 4th degree crime in New Jersey may land the violator in prison for up to 18 months and stuck with a fine up to $10,000. These are serious penalties that should not be taken lightly. Your criminal record could be stained and future employers or landlords may shy away from you.
If charged with hazing, contact Villani & DeLuca, P.C. immediately. Keep your criminal record clean and fight this charge. Our attorneys will review your case and implement the most aggressive and effective legal defense. Call today at 732-800-2980 for a free consultation. At Villani & DeLuca, P.C., we can help you fight your hazing charge.