Hazing: Florida Law and University Policy
STATE OF FLORIDA LAW ON HAZING
Chad Meredith Act (HB 193)
Florida House of Representatives
Law in effect July 1, 2005
Hazing is the subjection of another to extreme physical or mental harassment, usually associated with into a social organization. Under current law, hazing by a college student may subject that student to university or college discipline. Hazing incidents may lead to criminal prosecution under general criminal but there are impediments that make such prosecutions difficult.
This bill creates new criminal offenses specific to hazing at the high school or college level. This bill provides that it is a first degree misdemeanor to commit an act of hazing that creates a substantial risk of physical injury or death. The offense level increases to a third degree felony if the act of hazing actually results in serious bodily injury or death.
This bill also expands the definition of hazing, and provides a limited exception for certain legitimate activities. This act is named for Chad Meredith, a student at a Florida university who died in a hazing incident.
Chad Meredith’s Story
In 2001, University of Miami student Chad Meredith returned from a concert and began drinking with two officers of Kappa Sigma, a fraternity he wished to join. After several hours of drinking, the group tried to swim across Lake Osceola near campus. Meredith had a blood alcohol level of 0.13. He drowned 34 feet from shore in six feet nine inches of water. Although, the fraternity officers protested that the incident was not a fraternity-sanctioned hazing event, a jury found otherwise, and awarded the deceased student’s family a $12.6 million verdict in a negligence suit based on hazing.
Source: House of Representatives Staff Analysis, http://www.flsenate.gov/data/session/2005/House/bills/analysis/pdf/h0193.CRJU.pdf
State of Florida's Definition of Hazing
"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, the purpose of 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, forced calisthenics, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance, or other forced physical activity that which could adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student;
- Any activity that which would subject the student to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct that which could result in extreme embarrassment;
- Other forced activity that which 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.
In the State of Florida, Hazing is a Criminal Offense
A person commits hazing, a third degree felony, when he or she intentionally or recklessly commits any act of hazing 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.
A person commits hazing, a first degree misdemeanor, when he or she intentionally or recklessly commits any act of hazing 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.
It is not a defense to a charge of hazing that:
- The consent of the victim had been obtained;
- 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
- The conduct or activity that resulted in death or injury of the person was not done as a condition of membership to an organization.
Source: Chad Meredith Act, HB 193