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Is Hazing a Crime in Arizona?

Ask anyone who’s attended college and participated in Greek life what “hazing” is, and they probably either experienced or heard about it from others. So, what is hazing, and is it a crime in Arizona?

Hazing Definition

Hazing is defined as “any activity expected of someone joining or participation in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers them, regardless of a person’s willingness to participate.” In general, hazing is a tactic used to initiate new members into a group.”

According to an anti-hazing group, there are three components to hazing:

  1. It always occurs within a group setting
  2. Humiliating, degrading, or endangering behavior is required
  3. It happens regardless of the person’s willingness or consent

Most people would think of hazing in a college or university setting. Stories of frat parties and sororities gone wild often feature a hazing ceremony to induct new members. However, hazing can occur outside a university campus and may happen within any group context, from a gang to a particularly exclusive group of friends.

It’s important to note that while hazing is often associated with harm and humiliation, not all hazing ceremonies require the inductee to harm themselves or be hurt by someone else. It could be as harmless as wearing something embarrassing for a whole day or pulling off a prank.

The Power of Peer Pressure

For hazing to work, there must be peer pressure. We generally think of peer pressure as an adolescent phenomenon where teens feel an intense obligation to ‘fit in’ or be a part of a group. However, in the same way, that hazing can occur in many different places, peer pressure can happen anywhere at any age.

Trends are a reflection of peer pressure in some cases. For example, most people feel uncomfortable with the idea of owning a cell phone that isn’t an iPhone. Others may feel pressure to participate in specific clothing trends or remove outdated slang terms from their vocabulary.

Older groups, specifically older women, sometimes harbor peer pressure from their youth that may tell them to maintain a particular lifestyle or act a certain way in public. However, peer pressure occurs; it is a powerful force that capitalizes on our need to belong.

Peer pressure is also central to hazing. If a person fears being left out or getting rejected from a group, they may be willing to participate in unusual or even taboo behaviors in exchange for acceptance. We have all experienced peer pressure at one point or another, but when does it go too far? According to Arizona lawmakers, the buck stops with hazing.

House Bill 2322

The house panel has voted to make hazing a misdemeanor. The bill says that it is against the law for any minor or student to be subject to behavior that would violate any state or federal law. Breaking these laws result in criminal charges and could mean up to six months in jail.

This new anti-hazing legislation is the first of its kind in Arizona. While it only applies to minors and college students, the language in HB 2322 leaves little to interpretation. If someone is coerced into committing a state or federal crime, they can and may be charged with criminal hazing, and law enforcement will become involved.

Before HB2322, the only time a person could be charged for a crime would be if the hazing ritual resulted in life-threatening injuries or death. Now, lawmakers have made it clear that illegal behavior will not go unpunished.

Potential Trouble for College Students

As mentioned previously, not all hazing ceremonies involve illegal behavior. However, with lawmakers taking a strict stance against hazing in general, many college students could find themselves in trouble. Criminal charges usually have negative consequences, but they could mean losing scholarships and future opportunities for college students.

If you have been charged with hazing, you deserve legal representation. Contact Territorial Law, LLC today for more information.