University of Southern California

USC Student Affairs and Campus Life

New California Hazing Law Codifies Felony Level Penalties for Hazing with Addition of Section 245.6 to the Penal Code

To close the legal loopholes and deter students from participating in hazing, the California Penal Code was amended by adding Section 245.6, “Matt’s Law,” which repealed the Education Code hazing provisions and instead codified the definition of hazing within the Penal Code. “Hazing” covers any student in attendance at any public, private, parochial, or military school, community college, or other educational institution. Section 245.6 proscribes misdemeanor penalties for people or organizations who haze and felony penalties for hazing that results in death, great bodily injury or great psychological injury. It also prohibits prosecution for hazing against the person hazed and allows him/her to bring a civil action against the hazing perpetrators. Prosecutors now have the authority to bring charges against any person or organization (e.g., fraternity officials/chapters, nonenrolled students) involved in hazing.

Section 245.6 of the California Penal Code, which went into effect on January 1, 2007, reads:

245.6. (a) It shall be unlawful to engage in hazing, as defined in this section.

(b) “Hazing” means any method of initiation or preinitiation into a student organization or student body, whether or not the organization or body is officially recognized by an educational institution, which is likely to cause serious bodily injury to any former, current, or prospective student of any school, community college, college, university, or other educational institution in this state. The term “hazing” does not include customary athletic events or school-sanctioned events.

(c) A violation of this section that does not result in serious bodily injury is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100), nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or both.

(d) Any person who personally engages in hazing that results in death or serious bodily injury as defined in paragraph (4) of subdivision (f) of Section 243 of the Penal Code, is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.

(e) The person against whom the hazing is directed may commence a civil action for injury or damages. The action may be brought against any participants in the hazing, or any organization to which the student is seeking membership whose agents, directors, trustees, managers, or officers authorized, requested, commanded, participated in, or ratified the hazing.

(f) Prosecution under this section shall not prohibit prosecution under any other provision of law.

SEC. 5. This act shall be known and may be cited as “Matt’s Law” in memory of Matthew William Carrington, who died on February 2, 2005, as a result of hazing.

Matt Carrington, a Pleasant Hill resident and student at California State University, Chico, died in February of 2005 of water intoxication after being forced to drink gallons of water and do push-ups as part of his initiation into a fraternity. For more information about the law, click here.