Hazing: Florida Law and University Policy

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STATE OF FLORIDA LAW ON HAZING
Chad Meredith Act (HB 193)

Florida House of Representatives
Law in effect July 1, 2005


Summary

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:

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:

SourceChad Meredith Act, HB 193