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Can a College Student Go to Jail for Hazing?

Hazing has long been associated with Greek life on college and university campuses. For new members to be accepted as part of the group, they must participate in various rituals. Some of the tasks they must complete can cause physical or mental harm, leading to serious injury or death. As such, in Iowa, hazing is considered a crime. If someone commits this offense, they could be judged guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to jail.

What Is Hazing?

Hazing is a ritual or set of activities new members of groups must participate in to be inducted into the organization. In many cases, the activities the new members must go through are meant to humiliate, degrade, or harm them. Mainly this is done in an attempt to ensure conformity and adherence to group rules. Hazing can happen over a short period, such as during an induction week, or throughout a school year.

Various types of hazing rituals exist, including:

  • Making new members drink excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Depriving new members of sleep
  • Forcing new members to perform sexual acts
  • Isolating new members from others

Does Hazing Only Happen with Sororities and Fraternities?

Although hazing rituals are mostly associated with sororities and fraternities, these are not the only types of organizations that engage in such conduct. It can take place with sports teams, honor societies, performing arts groups, and other organizations. According to StopHazing.org, over 50% of college students experience hazing.

What Are Iowa's Laws on Hazing?

Iowa has a law on the books that criminalizes hazing. Anyone who commits such conduct may be sentenced to jail and/or fine.

Iowa Code 708.10 provides that hazing occurs when someone:

  • Intentionally or recklessly
  • Forces a student to engage in activities that would
  • Endanger their physical health or safety
  • To initiate them into a school, college, or university group or organization

Generally, hazing is charged as a simple misdemeanor. A conviction can result in a fine between $65 and $625 and/or a jail term of up to 30 days.

If the ritual causes serious injury to a student, the offense is elevated to a serious misdemeanor. Then, the conviction penalties include 1 year of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1875.

What Other Actions May Be Taken?

Many colleges and universities have policies prohibiting groups from engaging in hazing. An organization that violates these policies may be subject to probation or a suspension. The school would closely monitor the group or the group would no longer be able to operate on the campus.

Additionally, organizations that cause harm to students may be subject to civil lawsuits. Recently, a student filed a lawsuit against Drake University and the Theta Chi fraternity, alleging he was harmed after he was made to drink excessive amounts of alcohol as part of initiation into the group.

At Keegan, Tindal & Mason, we provide skilled legal help to college students in Iowa City and the surrounding areas who have been accused of crimes. If you're facing charges, call us at (319) 499-5524 or contact us online to tell us your side of the story.