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NY Penal Law § 120.17: Hazing in the second degree

June 26, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

NY Penal Law § 120.17: Hazing in the second degree

Hazing is used by numerous types of organizations to initiate their new members. Unfortunately, hazing has been frequently associated with the death or physical injury of individuals who submitted to required certain rituals. For decades, fraternities and sororities at American colleges and universities have habitually hazed prospective members. College sports teams, high school clubs and street gangs frequently haze new members also. There are two statutes in the New York Penal Code that make hazing a criminal offense.  They are hazing in the first degree and hazing in the second degree. You would have committed hazing in the second degree under New York Penal Code § 120.17 if, during the course of a person’s initiation into an organization, you do something that intentionally or recklessly poses a substantial risk of physical injury to another individual. Hazing in the first degree is a violation.


An Example

In the course of a sorority initiation ceremony, 3 pledges were ordered to get into a vehicle. The car was driven by an existing member of the sorority. Another existing member sat in the backseat in between 2 of the pledges. As the car traveled along a busy street, the existing sorority member in the back seat suddenly opened the car door and began to push one of the pledges out. The pledge screamed as she held on to the open door of the moving vehicle for 2 blocks. The sorority member soon pulled the pledge back into the car. Both of the existing members of the sorority who were in the car could face prosecution for hazing in the second degree.  This charge is valid based on the fact that their actions were reckless and put the pledge at risk of physical injury.


Offenses that are Related

NY‌ ‌Penal‌ ‌Law‌ ‌§‌ ‌120.16:‌ ‌Hazing‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌degree‌ 

Reckless endangerment in the second degree: New York Penal Code § 120.20

Reckless endangerment in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 120.25


Possible Defenses

If you can demonstrate that your actions, while seemingly risky, could not have inflicted any harm to another person, then you did not commit the crime of hazing in the second degree. For instance, if you point a toy gun at a group of pledges and pull the trigger, no reckless conduct can be demonstrated, because the toy gun could not have caused any injuries to the pledges.


The Sentence

Due to the fact that hazing in the second degree is a violation, if you violate New York Penal Code § 120.17, you could get a sentence of up to 15 days in jail. Nonetheless, since it is not a criminal conviction, it will not go on your criminal record.



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