What Criminal Defense Applies: Thirteen charged in college hazing death

For better or worse, hazing has been a part of American college life for a very long time. This remains true today too, in fact, even though hazing rituals are now considered “violent crimes” in several states because students have died or been seriously injured in hazing incidents. Some Criminal Defense may apply to those charged in this story.

Although the story we want to talk about today took place elsewhere, it could have just as easily involved students at the University of Minnesota or any of the other colleges or universities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

On November 19, 2011, a member of Florida A&M University’s marching band was found dead on the band’s bus after returning from a football game. According to prosecutors, he had been kicked, beaten and suffocated during a hazing ritual known to A&M students as “crossing bus C.” Many are now asking what Criminal Defense may apply to the accused college students.

This week, in what legal experts say is one of the largest criminal cases ever built on a hazing death, prosecutors charged 11 people with felonies and two with misdemeanor offenses under the strict anti-hazing law passed by the Florida Legislature in 2005. Reports also indicate that authorities expect to file misdemeanor charges against 20 other individuals for their roles in separate hazing incidents.

While Minnesota is one of 44 states to have enacted an anti-hazing statute, our law is much less severe than Florida’s, where hazing can be charged as a felony punishable by up to six years in prison.

Interestingly enough, authorities are still investigating this case and have not actually ascertained the identities of all those charged this week. While this is not necessarily unusual in a case like this, it does raise questions about the strength of the state’s case and provide some insight into why the individuals who were allegedly involved were not charged with a more serious type of violent crime such as manslaughter or murder.

Source: The New York Times, “Criminal Charges for 13 in Florida A&M Hazing Death,” Robbie Brown, May 2, 2012

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.