If you're facing criminal charges for hazing or already have a conviction on your record, you know that the state of Pennsylvania takes hazing seriously. After the highly publicized death of a Penn State student at a fraternity, and criminal convictions for those involved, the state vigorously prosecutes these charges. But a hazing conviction and a criminal record can follow you for years, impacting your future educational and career prospects. You could even face suspension or expulsion at your school or college, including retroactive recission of your diploma and a college degree. Fortunately, we have options to clean up a criminal record in Pennsylvania.
The best option for cleaning up your record is often expungement, where the court orders your records destroyed. But expungement isn't often an option if you have a misdemeanor conviction in Pennsylvania. However, you may qualify to limit public access to your records through Pennsylvania's Clean Slate legislation or petition the court to seal your records through Act 5.
Pennsylvania Statute Outlawing Hazing
While many saw hazing as a rite of passage in college or high school athletics or clubs, hazing can be physically and mentally detrimental to kids and young adults. You may face charges for hazing in Pennsylvania if you:
- Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly,
- To initiate, admit, or affiliate a minor or student with an organization, or
- To continue or enhance a minor student's “membership or statute in an organization,”
- Cause, coerce, or force a minor or student to:
- Break federal or state criminal law,
- Consume “any food, liquid, alcoholic liquid, drug or other substance” that subjects the student or minor to a “risk of emotional or physical harm,”
- Endure physical brutality, including “whipping, beating, branding, calisthenics or exposure to the elements,”
- Endure mental brutality, including activities that adversely affect the student's mental health or dignity, sleep deprivation, isolation from social contact, or “conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment,”
- Endure any other activity creating a “reasonable likelihood of bodily injury to the minor or student.”
Hazing doesn't include “reasonable and customary athletic, law enforcement or military training, contests, competitions or events.” 18 Pa. Stat. § 2802.
Penalties for Hazing in Pennsylvania
The grading of your hazing charge will vary based on the facts and circumstances of your case and whether the victim was subjected to the risk of emotional or physical harm.
- Penalties for Summary Offense Hazing Charges Typically, hazing is a summary offense. A summary offense is less serious than a misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law, with less stringent penalties. A summary conviction is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $300 fine, and possible restitution.
- Penalties for Misdemeanor Hazing Charges While hazing is often a summary offense, if you subject the minor or student to a “reasonable likelihood of bodily injury,” hazing is a third-degree misdemeanor. Under Pennsylvania law, a third-degree misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Sealing Your Hazing Criminal Record Through Clean Slate
In 2019, Pennsylvania passed legislation allowing more people to seal their criminal records after five to ten years. This “Clean Slate” legislation allows qualified people to seal some of their records automatically. You may qualify to seal your hazing record if:
- You have a summary conviction,
- You have a conviction for a second-degree or third-degree misdemeanor,
- Your ungraded misdemeanor conviction was punishable by five years or less in prison, or
- The court never convicted you because the prosecutor dismissed the charges against you or the court found you not guilty.
If you have a misdemeanor conviction, the state will usually wait ten years after you complete your sentence before automatically sealing your record. But if you have a conviction for a summary offense, you'll only need to wait five years after completing your sentence. Your waiting period could vary if you were a juvenile at the time of your conviction.
If you have a summary conviction or a third-degree misdemeanor conviction for hazing, you may qualify for automatic record sealing with Clean Slate. However, you may also be able to expunge a summary conviction for hazing, which would destroy your records rather than simply conceal them from public view. You may qualify to expunge your summary conviction if:
- It's been five years since you completed your sentence and paid your fines, and
- You aren't arrested or prosecuted for any other crimes for five years after your summary offense conviction.
You may also be able to expunge a misdemeanor hazing conviction if you were a juvenile at the time of the offense. Expunging your record is more complicated than automatic sealing; you'll need to petition the court to expunge your record. But expungement is a more thorough option.
Sealing Your Hazing Criminal Record with an Act 5 Petition
If you don't qualify for automatic sealing through Clean Slate, you may be eligible to petition the court to seal your record through Pennsylvania's Act 5. Act 5 isn't automatic, but it applies to more people. You may qualify to file an Act 5 sealing petition if:
- It has been at least ten years since you paid your fines and completed your sentence,
- Your conviction was for a misdemeanor or ungraded offense punishable by five years or less in prison, and
- You don't have any additional convictions or arrests for crimes that are punishable by a year or more in prison.
Sealing a Juvenile Hazing Record
If you had a summary conviction or misdemeanor conviction for hazing as a juvenile, you might be able to expunge or seal your record after meeting some specific notice requirements, and it's been six months to five years since you completed your sentence or supervision. The waiting period will depend on the crime. If you have a juvenile conviction for hazing, you should immediately see an experienced expungement and sealing attorney.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing and Expungement Attorney
If you're exploring how to clean up your criminal record for hazing, you need to discuss your options with an experienced Pennsylvania sealing and expungement attorney. Moreover, if you're facing hazing charges, you need an attorney who is also well-versed in handling student discipline and criminal law cases. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a skilled Pennsylvania sealing and expungement attorney. He and the experienced team at the Lento Law Firm have also handled cases across the country involving criminal charges faced by students and potential college student discipline issues. They can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm a call at 888.535.3686 to schedule a consultation, or contact them online today.