Hazing Offenses


Although fraternities, sororities, and other student organizations have a celebrated history and deep roots in American schools, colleges, and universities, it’s easy for some of their activities to become a criminal offense. Ohio enacted a hazing law that penalizes the reckless conduct of student organizations. The penalties for hazing vary from criminal penalties and civil liability, as well as a investigation by the school’s student conduct office.

What is Hazing?

Under Ohio law, hazing means “doing any act or coercing another, including the victim, to do any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person.” Physical harm means “any injury, illness, or other physiological impairment, regardless of its gravity or duration.” The substantial risk involved must be “a strong possibility, as contrasted with a remote or significant possibility, that a certain result may occur or that certain circumstances may exist.”

Hazing Criminal Penalties

Hazing is a crime in the state of Ohio. It is illegal for a person to recklessly participate in the hazing of another. It is also illegal for a school administrator, employee, or faculty member of any primary, secondary, or post-secondary school or of any other educational institution, public or private, to recklessly permit the hazing of any person.

Hazing possible penalties:

  • M4 (misdemeanor of the fourth degree)

Hazing Civil Penalties & Student Conduct

Although hazing, as a criminal offense, is punishable by a low-level misdemeanor of the fourth degree, the civil penalties and consequences from a school’s student conduct office are severe.

Ohio law created a specific civil cause of action that allows victims of hazing to commence a civil action for injury or damages, including mental and physical pain and suffering, that result from the hazing. Even if the victim of the hazing incident was in any way negligent or assumed some risk of hazing, the victim may bring a hazing civil law suit; that is not a defense

Who may be liable in a hazing civil lawsuit?

  • Any participants in the hazing

  • Any organization whose local or national directors, trustees, or officers authorized, requested, commanded, or tolerated the hazing

  • Any local or national director, trustee, or officer of the organization who authorized, requested, commanded, or tolerated the hazing


Are you or a loved one facing a hazing offense filed by the government, or by a school, college, or university? Contact The Stavroff Law Firm today to learn about your rights and begin building your defense.