Hazing on New Jersey Campuses
New Jersey colleges and universities can offer students a great education and a good college experience, including a hearty social life. Schools like Rutgers, Montclair State, New Jersey Institute of Technology, the College of New Jersey, Kean University, Rowan University, New Jersey City University, Thomas Edison State University, and many other New Jersey schools enroll student populations and locate their campuses, to help students achieve their educational goals while also developing their social networks. Fraternities and sororities can play a special role in both respects, education and social life. But fraternities and sororities can also be notorious for their initiation rites. Indeed, the 2017 death of New Jersey student Timothy Piazza at a nearby state campus, documented in a streaming service series, spurred the New Jersey legislature to adopt stricter criminal penalties for hazing in an act named for the deceased student. If you face hazing allegations at your New Jersey college or university, you need skilled and experienced criminal and school disciplinary defense representation. Retain New Jersey student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's defense team to preserve your education, clean record, and reputation.
New Jersey's Anti-Hazing Law
New Jersey codifies its anti-hazing law in New Jersey Statutes 2C:40-3. The statute defines hazing very broadly to include a much wider range of conduct than students might expect. You can, in other words, commit criminal hazing when you think instead that your actions were innocent or at least not criminal. The core requirement for a criminal charge of hazing is that the offender must have acted "in connection with initiation of applicants to or members of a student or fraternal organization, whose membership is primarily students or alumni of the organization or an institution of higher education…." You are not hazing unless your actions involve student or fraternal organization initiation rites. Beyond that organizational requirement, the offender must knowingly or recklessly commit at least one of the following acts:
- inducing another to commit an illegal act;
- inducing another to consume food, liquid, alcohol, drug, or other substance risking emotional or physical harm or deleterious to health;
- physically abusing, mistreating, harassing, or degrading, such as whipping, beating, branding, excessive calisthenics, or exposure to the elements;
- mentally or emotionally abusing, mistreating, harassing, or degrading, adversely affecting another's mental or emotional health or dignity, such as sleep deprivation, social isolation, or conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment;
- sexually abusing, mistreating, harassing, or degrading; or
- any other activity creating a reasonable likelihood of injury to the person.
New Jersey Criminal Penalties for Hazing
New Jersey's original anti-hazing law made the crime a disorderly person's offense. New Jersey punishes disorderly persons offenses with jail for up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000. The new legislation adopted after Timothy Piazza's notorious hazing death increased the punishment for certain hazing crimes. Under the present anti-hazing law, codified at New Jersey Statutes 2C:40-3, hazing becomes a crime of the third degree if the defendant's unlawful act results in another's death or serious bodily injury. Third-degree offenses carry a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The present statute elevates the hazing crime to a crime of the fourth degree if the defendant's hazing results only in bodily injury rather than serious bodily injury or death. Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to eighteen months in prison and a $10,000 fine. Otherwise, hazing remains a disorderly persons offense under the present anti-hazing law. Significantly, though, the present law also authorizes charges against the student or fraternal organization for knowingly or recklessly promoting or facilitating hazing. The organization faces a fine of not less than $1,000 or more than $5,000 for the first violation and fines of not less than $5,000 or more than $15,000 for subsequent violations.
Investigating Hazing on New Jersey Campuses
Fraternities and sororities have little chance of avoiding college or university scrutiny of hazing incidents and allegations. The federal Jeanne Clery Act requires colleges and universities to receive federal funding to maintain campus safety policies, notify students of campus crime, and report campus crime statistics. A New Jersey college or university that fails to police, punish, and report campus crime, including hazing and other endangering behaviors, could lose its federal funding, face civil liability, and endure public condemnation. New Jersey colleges and universities, like schools in other states, maintain public or private police forces to fulfill those duties relating to crime and safety. Rutgers, New Jersey City University, Stockton University, Rowan University, Montclair State University, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, for example, all maintain police forces. Instructors, administrators, and other school staff routinely report suspected unsafe or criminal conduct to campus police. Campus police may turn over to public law enforcement, public prosecutors, and school disciplinary officials any evidence of hazing their investigation produces. And even if campus police do not get involved, school disciplinary officials may conduct their own disciplinary investigation into hazing. Word gets around on campus. Your college or university is very likely to discover hazing, whether your fraternity or sorority cooperates or not. Retain New Jersey student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for the skilled and experienced defense of criminal or school hazing charges.
Defending New Jersey Criminal Hazing Charges
A criminal hazing charge does not necessarily mean that the public prosecutor has the evidence to convict or, after consideration of mitigating evidence, won't voluntarily dismiss or reduce the charge. New Jersey law permits certain defenses to hazing. New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento's skilled and experienced defense representation may help you convince the prosecutor to drop all charges. Attorney Lento's advocacy may show the prosecutor gaps in the prosecution case, may suppress illegally acquired evidence or may demonstrate such strongly mitigating evidence as to convince the prosecutor to abandon the charge. Plea bargaining may well be possible. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's criminal defense team may also successfully advocate with the trial judge for dismissal or charge reduction or may convince the jury to acquit. Other services that the Lento Law Firm provides may include:
- ensuring prompt release after arraignment on fair bond terms for the student to continue classes and assist in the criminal defense;
- challenging the sufficiency of the prosecution's evidence at the preliminary examination;
- identifying and acquiring exonerating and mitigating evidence to present in conferences and at trial;
- advising the student on New Jersey's Pretrial Intervention (PTI) or Pretrial Diversion program to avoid conviction risk;
- conducting cross-examination at the trial to show that the prosecution has not proven all hazing elements beyond a reasonable doubt; and
- advocating post-trial motions and pursuing appeals, showing misconduct and errors.
Hazing can be a difficult charge to prove when a skilled and experienced attorney defends the case. The student's alleged misconduct may not have been part of an initiation rite. The alleged misconduct may not have subjected the initiated student to any mental or physical harm. The accused student may not have been among those organization leaders or members actually committing hazing acts and may instead have been an innocent bystander or simply misidentified. Prosecutors, judges, and juries rightly concern themselves with protecting against serious harm. But they also recognize the tradition and innocence of fraternity and sorority antics. Retain New Jersey student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to effectively argue these and other hazing defenses.
New Jersey College and University Anti-Hazing Policies
While New Jersey colleges and universities will enforce criminal laws against hazing on their campuses through their campus police departments and school disciplinary officials, New Jersey colleges and universities will also enforce their own anti-hazing policies. Rutgers University, for example, includes an anti-hazing provision in its Code of Student Conduct. Rutgers' code defines hazing as engaging in acts that impact the mental, emotional, or physical health or safety of a student for initiation or admission into, affiliation with, or continued membership in any organization or team whose members are Rutgers students, whether the affected student consents or not. New Jersey's Institute of Technology, Montclair State University, and other state and private colleges and universities have similar anti-hazing provisions in their student codes of conduct. The sanctions under these student codes of conduct for hazing violations can be serious. Montclair State's code, for instance, requires a minimum sanction of suspension and allows a maximum sanction of expulsion. Hazing may not be a slap-on-the-hand offense. It could result in your expulsion from school, especially if complaining students suffered physical, mental, or emotional harm.
New Jersey Campus Hazing Disciplinary Procedures
Fortunately, New Jersey colleges and universities provide disciplinary procedures through which you can contest hazing charges. Constitutional due process and contractual commitments generally require colleges and universities to provide fair notice of the charge and a reasonable opportunity to tell your side of the story before an impartial decision maker. Don't ignore hazing charges. Instead, retain school discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to invoke your school's protective disciplinary procedures. Your school's hazing charges could impact you just as much or more than criminal hazing charges in court. A school suspension or expulsion, or even reprimands and other lesser sanctions that appear on your school transcript, can affect your future graduate education, employment, professional licensure, vocational certification, and career. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team can help you strategically deploy your school's disciplinary procedures, like those at Montclair State University allowing you to:
- retain and rely on the counsel of your own skilled defense attorney to assist you throughout the school's disciplinary proceedings without school interference;
- evaluate the school's written notice of the disciplinary charges so that you and your retained attorney can contest the charges and gather exonerating and mitigating evidence;
- obtain in advance of hearing the school's evidence against you and correct the school's investigation report while supplementing it with omitted material evidence;
- attend informal resolution conferences to present your retained attorney's information and analysis, advocating for prompt dismissal of all disciplinary charges;
- attend a formal hearing where you and your retained attorney can question adverse witnesses and present your own defense witnesses and evidence to advocate for acquittal on all charges; and
- appeal any adverse decisions, identifying investigator and decision maker bias and conflict of interest or other misconduct and errors in the disciplinary proceedings.
Alternative Special Relief from Hazing Charges
You may have alternative special relief, even if you have already exhausted all formal disciplinary procedures and still face suspension or expulsion for hazing. School discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has the national reputation and network to reach and gain the trust of college or university general counsel, retained counsel, or other oversight officials. Attorney Lento has helped many students gain reinstatement to school through those channels, even after the student has lost all formal proceedings. Don't give up. Retain attorney Lento to explore alternative special relief so that you can preserve and complete your New Jersey college or university education.
New Jersey Student Hazing Defense Representation
New Jersey student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented hundreds of college and university students nationwide against hazing and other misconduct charges. When you retain attorney Lento, you gain both the skill and experience of a criminal defense lawyer and the knowledge and sensitivity of an adept school discipline defense lawyer. You get the special skills of two different attorneys in one attorney. Attorney Lento knows how to address charges arising out of fraternity or sorority events or other misconduct alleged under the student code of conduct. A skilled and experienced New Jersey attorney for both student discipline defense and criminal defense is your best option to preserve your New Jersey college or university education. Protect your education and future. Contact attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go online.