Chad Meredith Act

Florida House of Representatives – Law in effect July 1, 2005

Hazing is the subjection of another to extreme physical or mental harassment, usually associated with initiation into a social organization. Under current law, hazing by a college student may subject that student to university or college discipline. Hazing incidents may lead to criminal prosecution under general criminal laws, but there are impediments that make such prosecutions difficult.

This bill creates new criminal offenses specific to hazing at the high school or college level. This bill provides that it is a first degree misdemeanor to commit an act of hazing that creates a substantial risk of physical injury or death. The offense level increases to a third degree felony if the act of hazing actually results in serious bodily injury or death.

This bill also expands the definition of hazing, and provides a limited exception for certain legitimate activities. This act is named for Chad Meredith, a student at a Florida university who died in a hazing incident.

This bill creates new criminal offenses specific to hazing at the high school or college level. This bill provides that it is a first degree misdemeanor to commit an act of hazing that creates a substantial risk of physical injury or death. The offense level increases to a third degree felony if the act of hazing actually results in serious bodily injury or death. A sentencing court may order the defendant to complete a 4-hour hazing education course and may also impose a condition of drug or alcohol probation.

This bill provides that certain general defenses to a criminal action are not applicable to the crime of hazing. Notably, consent of the victim is not a defense to hazing. Also, whether or not the hazing was sanctioned or approved as an official organizational event is not a defense, nor is it a defense that the act was not done as a condition of membership of the organization.

Florida Law

Florida Statute under Title XLVIII, Chapter 1006.63 defines hazing as:

“Hazing” means any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for purposes including, but not limited to, initiation or admission into or affiliation with any organization operating under the sanction of a postsecondary institution.

“Hazing” includes, but is not limited to:

  • pressuring or coercing the student into violating state or federal law
  • any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, exposure to the elements,
  • forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance
  • other forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student
  • any activity that would subject the student to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment, or other forced activity that could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the student.
  • “Hazing” does not include customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions or any activity or conduct that furthers a legal and legitimate objective.

“Hazing” is committed as:

  • a third degree felony, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, when he or she intentionally or recklessly commits any act of hazing as defined in subsection (1) upon another person who is a member of or an applicant to any type of student organization and the hazing results in serious bodily injury or death of such other person.
  • a first degree misdemeanor, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, when he or she intentionally or recklessly commits any act of hazing as defined in subsection (1) upon another person who is a member of or an applicant to any type of student organization and the hazing creates a substantial risk of physical injury or death to such other person.

These items are not a defense against “Hazing”:

  • The consent of the victim had been obtained;
  • The conduct or activity that resulted in the death or injury of a person was not part of an official organizational event or was not otherwise sanctioned or approved by the organization; or
  • The conduct or activity that resulted in death or injury of the person was not done as a condition of membership to an organization.

Source: Florida Statutes & Constitution