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- Lawsuit Filed Following Criminal Plea Bargain
- Largest Ever Settlement Reached in Hazing Case
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- Investigation into Tragic Death of Ohio University Student Focused on Hazing
- Florida Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Hazing Statute
- Court Finds for Alpha Chi Rho in Zoning Challenge
Newsletter > January 2019 > "Florida Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Hazing Statute"
Florida Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Hazing Statute
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, email@example.com
Robert Champion, the drum major of the Florida A & M “Marching 100” band, died in November of 2011
following his participation in the hazing ritual known as “Crossing Bus C”. Those who “crossed” from the front to the back of the bus were beaten as they did so. 7 years later questions around the Florida hazing statute under which prosecutions related to the death occurred have finally been resolved. Dante Martin, the apparent ringleader in overseeing Champion’s “crossing”, had been convicted of manslaughter, felony hazing resulting in death, and two counts of misdemeanor hazing. He was sentenced to 6 ½ years in jail. He had challenged his convictions arguing that the Florida hazing statue was unconstitutionally overbroad and void-for-vagueness. On December 13, 2018 the Florida Supreme Court rejected these arguments and upheld his conviction.
The Florida definition law defines hazing as:
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 to or affiliation with any organization operation under the sanctions of a post secondary 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 element, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance or other forced physical activity that would adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student, and also includes any activity that would subject the student to extreme mental distress 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 or legitimate objective.
Separate sub sections of the Florida hazing law make it a criminal third degree felony to recklessly or
intentionally commit any act of hazing which results in seriously bodily injury or death or a first degree
misdemeanor if that conduct creates a substantial risk of bodily injury or death.
Martin’s attorney argued that the statute was unconstitutionally overbroad because it criminalized
constitutionally protected speech and conduct. The court dismissed that argument stating “the focus of the
criminal hazing statute thus is undoubtedly on physical harm and the risk of physical harm. Any impact on
speech or expressive conduct is insubstantial and purely incidental to the purpose of preventing physical
Martin’s argument that the statute was void-for-vagueness was similarly dismissed. The court declined to
focus on terms which might be vague such as “extreme mental stress” or “extreme embarrassment” or the
“mental health and dignity of the hazing victim”. Those terms were not relevant to Martin’s conviction as the court noted that:
No actual ambiguity in terms of the statue has been identified by Martin that has any bearing on the offenses for which Martin was convicted. The conduct in which Martin was involved falls squarely and unambiguously within the statutes core proscription of ‘brutality of a physical nature such as whipping’ or ‘beating’ that ‘intentionally or recklessly’ ‘results in serious bodily injury or death’ or ‘creates a substantial risk’ of such harms.
Hazing definitions frequently may have terms in them which may not be entirely clear. What conduct does
constitute “extreme embarrassment” as opposed to mere teasing or poking fun? There is little in the way of
court guidance to help answer those questions. But when a victim is beaten to death, as was the case of
Robert Champion, or a new member, typically underage, dies as a result of alcohol poisoning from excess
consumption of alcohol that was part of a test for or a “tradition” leading to membership, it’s relatively easy
for courts to find that the conduct is appropriately condemned by law.
 Martin v. State 43 FLA.L.W. 621