By Robert G. Stahl and Laura K. Gasiorowski

Universities around the country have been aggressively investigating hazing. These investigations have been propelled by several tragic events that have resulted in fatalities or serious injuries usually resulting from excessive alcohol consumption.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signs “Timothy J. Piazza’s Anti-hazing Law”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signs “Timothy J. Piazza’s Anti-hazing Law”

Most university policies, as well as state laws, broadly define hazing as any type of conduct in relation to joining a fraternity, sorority, eating club or sports team that is not purely an athletic competition. Most universities have language similar to the following:

“Any student shall have the right to be free of all activities which might constitute hazing, while attempting to become a member of, or maintain membership in, a fraternity, sorority, athletic team, student organization, eating club, or other organization. Organizations, their members, and their prospective members are prohibited from engaging in or encouraging others to engage in activities that are defined as hazing.

Hazing encompasses a broad range of behaviors that may place another person in danger of bodily injury, or that demonstrates indifference or disregard for another person’s dignity or well-being.

Examples of hazing include but are not limited to the following:

    • Ingestion of alcohol, food, drugs, or any undesirable substance.
    • Participation in sexual rituals or assaults.
    • Emotionally or psychologically abusive or demeaning behavior.
    • Acts that could result in physical, psychological, or emotional deprivation or harm.
    • Physical abuse, e.g., whipping, paddling, beating, tattooing, branding, and exposure to the elements, or the threat of such behaviors.
    • Participation in illegal activities or activities prohibited by University policy.

Students who participate in hazing pledges are potentially subject to both criminal and university charges. Even the pledges who are subjected to hazing can and often are charged with violation of university hazing policy. Further, it is no defense to hazing that the person (pledge) consented to the activity.

Similarly, under New Jersey law, a person is guilty of hazing, “a disorderly persons offense, if, in connection with the initiation of applicants to or members of a student or fraternal organization, that person knowingly or recklessly organizes, promotes, facilitates, or engages in any conduct, other than competitive athletic events, which places or may place another person in danger of bodily injury. A person is guilty of aggravated hazing, a crime of the fourth degree, if that person commits an act which results in serious bodily injury to another person. Consent shall not be available as a defense to a prosecution under law.”

Often, students are faced with a difficult decision – if they fail to cooperate and are not candid with university disciplinary investigators, they can be disciplined for failure to cooperate and lack of honesty, while full cooperation can lead to a wider investigation of the activities and result in additional disciplinary action by the university. Conversely, anything they reveal in the university setting may be used against them in a parallel criminal investigation.

Stahl Gasiorowski Criminal Defense Attorneys has successfully represented a number of university students investigated and charged with hazing. We have the experience and skills to effectively navigate our clients through these complex investigations to achieve the best possible outcome. To contact Mr. Stahl or Ms. Gasiorowski, call 908.301.9001 for the NJ office and 212.755.3300 for the NYC office, or email Mr. Stahl at or Ms. Gasiowski at