Many college fraternities, sororities, athletic teams and secret societies have rites of passage that mark the time a pledge becomes an actual member of the group. Some of those rites of passage are initiatory and perfectly benign -- while others constitute abuse known as hazing.
Hazing has generally fallen in disfavor across college campuses nationwide, in large part because students have gotten carried away and other students have gotten injured or killed in the process. Now, most universities have rules against hazing -- so do many of the fraternities and sororities themselves. Hazing can also result in criminal charges.
What's the difference between initiation and hazing?
Hazing, by Colorado law, involves recklessly endangering the health or safety of another for the purposes of initiation into a student organization.
This does not include things like contests, competitions or training events. It does include things like the following:
-- Forced, prolonged physical activity
-- Forced consumption of food, drink, medication or controlled substances in excess of the usual amount consumed by humans under normal circumstances
-- Forced consumption of substances not normally intended for human consumption
-- Sleep deprivation
-- Starvation or the withholding of fluids
Hazing also includes activities that humiliate or degrade another human being, even if they consent to the treatment. Physical abuse of any sort, like paddling, is also considered hazing.
Hazing is a Class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado, which involves a potential penalty of up to six months in jail and a $750 fine. Keep in mind, however, that a conviction for hazing could also open you -- and your organization -- up to a personal injury lawsuit by the victim. The potential financial consequences in that sort of situation could be significant.
If you're charged with college hazing, it's important to get an early start on your defense. A criminal defense attorney can help you get started your case.
Source: FindLaw, "Colorado Revised Statutes Title 18. Criminal Code 18-9-124. Hazing--penalties--legislative declaration," accessed March 24, 2017