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NY Penal Law § 120.16: Hazing in the first degree

NY Penal Law § 120.16: Hazing in the first degree

Hazing is generally associated with fraternities, sororities, and college sports teams. That said, it also takes place inside of high school student organizations, as well as other organizations that are not affiliated with an academic organization, such as a street gang. In order for a person to become a member of a particular group, the existing members require that person to undergo some sort of humiliating, abusive, degrading or harmful activity or ritual as an initiation. This activity is referred to as hazing.  Under some circumstances,  the hazing results in the injury or death of the individual being hazed.  You could be prosecuted for hazing under New York Penal Code § 120.16 if, during the course of a person’s initiation into an organization, you do something that intentionally or recklessly poses a substantial risk of physical injury to another person and that person does indeed sustain such a physical injury. Hazing in the first degree is categorized as a class A misdemeanor.


For Example

A man expressed his desire to become a member of a local gang. The existing members told him that in order to join, he had to be “jumped in.” He agreed, and as an initiation, five gang members beat up the man as a part of the jumping in process. As a result of this activity, the man suffered broken ribs and several bruises all over his body. Another member of the gang made a video of the jumping in. The video found its way to the police department. Each gang member who was involved in beating up the man, as well as the person who filmed the jumping, could be prosecuted for hazing in the first degree.  This charge is valid in this case because their reckless and intentional actions caused the victim physical injury.


Offenses that are Related

NY Penal Law § 120.17: Hazing in the second degree

Reckless endangerment in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 120.25

Reckless endangerment in the second degree: New York Penal Code § 120.20


Possible Defenses

To be convicted of hazing in the first degree the prosecutor must show that the victim suffered a physical injury. New York Penal Code § 10.00(9) defines “physical injury” as an injury that results in a physical impairment or one that causes substantial physical pain. If the injury is very minor such as a scrape that requires a mere bandage, or a bruise that disappears in a few days, then such an injury would not fit the legal definition of physical injury.


The Sentence

Due to the fct that hazing in the first degree is a class A misdemeanor, if you are convicted, you could spend up to a year behind bars. It is also possible that the judge might alternatively sentence you to a probation term of 3 years. On top of the sentencing, the judge may order you to pay a fine of up to $1,000.

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