I. PC 245.6: Hazing
Legal Definition: (a) It shall be unlawful to engage in hazing, as defined in this section.
(b) “Hazing” means any method of initiation or preinitiation into a student organization or student body, whether or not the organization or body is officially recognized by an educational institution, which is likely to cause serious bodily injury to any former, current, or prospective student of any school, community college, college, university, or other educational institution in this state. The term “hazing” does not include customary athletic events or school-sanctioned events.
To be found guilty under PC 245.6, the prosecution must prove that:
- You were involved in an activity that was part of an initiation into a student body or student organization;
- You knew or reasonably should have known that the activity was likely to cause serious bodily injury;
- The activity was not part of any kind of customary school-sanctioned event or athletic event.
II. What does this mean?
The victim does not actually need to suffer a great bodily injury or get hurt in any way to prove this charge. It is enough that it is shown that the activities you were doing were likely to cause serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury can be injuries such as a concussion, a loss of consciousness, or even disfigurement. This section expands the definition of “students” as well, past just current students, to also include prospective students and former students.
There is also a broad stroke in terms of what is defined as a “school” under this section. This would mean the common definition of a school, a community college, a university, a college, or any other educational institution in California. Although hazing seems very common in many mainstream movies in California, depending on what a person is subjected to, it is a crime to do that in California.
A conviction under PC 245.6 is a wobbler offense, meaning you can be charged under this section as a misdemeanor or as a felony offense. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony charge, depends on the specific facts of your case, your criminal history, your level of involvement in the hazing, and whether your hazing resulted in serious bodily injury. If you are convicted of this violation as a misdemeanor, you could serve up to one year in County Jail. You would be required to serve 50% of that time in custody. You could also be subject to fines from upwards of $100 to $5000 as well. If you are convicted under this section as a felony, you could be sentenced to upwards of 16 months, 2 or 3 years in State Prison. You would have to serve 50% of that time in custody.
You can also be subject to an additional, civil lawsuit by the victims after your criminal case. This could mean severe additional fines, involving actual damages suffered, emotional distress, which could include therapy.
This is not a strike offense under the California Three Strikes law, and it is not a Sex Offense under PC 290. If you are convicted of this charge as a felony, you could face a potential loss of your temporary Immigration status or loss of your Professional License.
IV. Common Defenses
You can defend against this charge easily if you are able to show that what you were doing did not amount to the level of “hazing” as defined above. Also, if there is no risk of serious bodily harm, you could also argue for a reduction of your charges from a felony to a misdemeanor during your Preliminary Hearing under PC 17(b). Failing to show that you were not hazing another person, would show there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of PC 245.6.
It can also be shown that even if there was a hazing, you were not involved, but rather blamed by another person. False accusations happen more often than people understand in the Criminal Law, and they can happen here too. Imagine a situation where you belong to a Fraternity that engages in an act of hazing. You not only don’t know about this hazing, but you deliberately tell people not to do it. Your other brothers in the fraternity decide to do the hazing while you’re out of town, so you won’t know. Lacking knowledge of the hazing would mean you could not be found guilty of it. A person could wrongfully say you were there, or that you organized or planed this, thus forcing you to be charged. An experienced Criminal Defense Attorney can argue you were being falsely accused, in order to get your entire case dismissed.
V. Call Today
A criminal charge can be devastating, especially to a student. A once clean record can be ruined by a simple mistake, or misunderstanding, or even false accusations. It is important to not allow yourself poor representation, your future cannot afford that. Our Ontario PC 245.6 attorney has dealt with many hazing related offenses, including violations under PC 245.6. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorney today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.