NRS 200.605 is the Nevada law that prohibits hazing in college or high school clubs and athletics teams. Hazing is defined as subjecting future or current members to potential physical harm as a condition of initiating into – or remaining in – the organization. It is unlawful even if the victim consents to be hazed.
The statute states that:
Hazing … includes, without limitation, any physical brutality or brutal treatment, including, without limitation, whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the elements or forced consumption of food, liquor, drugs or other substances.
Hazing is a misdemeanor as long as no substantial bodily harm results. This carries up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. But an NRS 200.605 violation becomes a gross misdemeanor with double maximum penalties if serious injury results.
Potential defenses to NRS 200.605 criminal charges include:
- No brutal treatment occurred;
- The defendant was falsely accused; or
- The defendant had no criminal intent.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys will answer the following key questions:
- 1. What is the legal definition of hazing in Nevada?
- 2. What are the penalties under NRS 200.605?
- 3. How can an attorney fight the charges?
- 4. Is consent a defense to hazing?
- 5. Is hazing deportable?
- 6. When can the criminal record be sealed?
NRS 200.605 defines hazing as causing or risking physical harm to initiating or current members of either a high school or college club, such as:
- Student organizations like fraternities and sororities,
- Academic association like Varsity Quiz or honor societies, or
- Sports teams like football, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, volleyball, soccer, swimming, and baseball
Hazing rituals may be considered tradition, but they are Nevada crimes. Common examples of hazing include:
- Whipping or beating
- Blindfolding and paddling
- Forced exercise (i.e. making someone do pushups or lifting motor vehicles)
- Exposure to the outdoors
- Compelled intoxication by way of drugs or alcohol
- Forced consumption of alcohol, controlled substances, food, drinks, or any other substance
- Sleep deprivation 1
Past examples of NRS 200.605 violations include:
- In 2008, pledges at UNR‘s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity had their buttocks branded.2
- In 2010, a softball coach school employee from South Tahoe allegedly forced players who had struck out to drink soda out of a shoe.3
- In 2011, five wrestlers from Churchill County High School were accused of stripping a teammate, locking him outside of his hotel room, and then urinating on him.4
- In 2016, an 18-year old UNR student died after falling down the stairs following a night of drinking.5
Nevada universities and school districts are taking a tough stance against hazing on or off school property. In 2017, UNLV suspended the sorority Delta Zeta for hazing. And in 2019, Pi Beta Phi at UNR openly supported National Hazing Prevention Week.6
The penalty for violating NRS 200.605 depends on whether anyone gets seriously hurt. If the hazing does not result in substantial bodily harm, a conviction is punished as a misdemeanor. The sentence is:
- up to six (6) months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
Meanwhile, an incident that does cause substantial bodily harm is a gross misdemeanor. The sentence is:
- up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
Note that if the incident causes death, the state may bring charges for involuntary manslaughter (NRS 200.070) or even second-degree murder (NRS 200.030). In addition, the victim’s family may bring a civil wrongful death claim (as in the recent case of a UNR pledge who drowned during a fraternity event).7
Finally, note that anyone accused of violating NRS 200.605 could face disciplinary action from their school’s board of trustees.
2.1. Juvenile offenders
Defendants under 18 years of age who are arrested for violating NRS 200.605 in Nevada typically have their cases heard in juvenile court. Minor-aged defendants are adjudged “delinquent” rather than “guilty,” and they may usually have their juvenile records sealed upon turning 21.8
The best way to defend against an NRS 200.605 charge depends on the facts of the specific case. Valid defenses include:
- There was no hazing. If the defense attorney can demonstrate that the activities the defendant was arrested for do not rise to the level of physical endangerment, the district attorney should drop the charge. Examples of harmless rituals are asking everyone to wear a certain color or chanting club songs on college campuses.
- The defendant was falsely accused. It is not uncommon for people to wrongly accuse someone else of a crime out of anger, jealousy, or an honest misunderstanding. This is especially true for young adults, and a defense attorney may be able to impeach the accuser’s credibility.
- The defendant had no criminal intent. NRS 200.605 charges apply only when the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly (which is with a wanton disregard of others’ safety). If the defendant was only negligent or acted by accident, then no hazing occurred.
Common evidence in these cases include law enforcement reports, health care records, eyewitness testimony of student conduct, and recordings of the students’ use of electronic communication.
No. Consent of a victim of hazing is not a defense to NRS 200.605 charges, even if the victim asked to be hazed.9
Arguably, violating NRS 200.605 can be considered a crime of moral turpitude in Nevada. Therefore, aliens who are facing these charges risk deportation if they get convicted.
The waiting period to seal NRS 200.605 cases depends on whether the conviction was for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor:
|Nevada conviction||Waiting period to get a record seal in Nevada|
|Gross misdemeanor||2 years after the case ends|
|Misdemeanor||1 year after the case ends10|
|Dismissal (no conviction)||No waiting period11|
Learn more about how to seal Nevada criminal records.
In California? See our article about California hazing laws (Penal Code 245.6 PC).
- NRS 200.605 (For the purposes of this section, an activity shall be deemed to be “forced” if initiation into or affiliation with a student organization, academic association or athletic team is directly or indirectly conditioned upon participation in the activity…[To haze] means an activity in which a person intentionally or recklessly endangers the physical health of another person for the purpose of initiation into or affiliation with a student organization, academic association or athletic team at a high school, college or university in [Nevada].”); Senate Bill 297 (1999).
- Rebecca Chase, “ATO found guilty of hazing,” Nevada Sagebrush, (Feb. 19, 2008).
- “5 Fallon wrestlers accused of hazing teammate in Las Vegas,” Associated Press, (Jan. 14, 2011).
- Andrew Kraft, “Nevada fraternity death: Sigma Nu chapter sued by parents,” Foxnews (June 15, 2017)
- Natalia Bruzda, “UNLV suspends sorority for … breaches,” Las Vegas Review-Journal (April 4, 2017); see also Stacy J. Willis, “UNLV students want anti-hazing laws,” Las Vegas Sun (Dec. 10, 1998); Zachary Slotemaker, Pi Beta Phi sorority [in University of Nevada Reno] supports ‘National Hazing Prevention Week’, KRNV News 4 (Sept. 26, 2019).
- Estate of Deceased College Student v. Pi Kappa Alpha House Corporation, et al.
- NRS 62H.130.
- Nevada Revised Statutes 200.605(2). But if the defendant’s behavior was unconnected to a school or college club, consent could be a defense to such crimes as assault (NRS 200.471), battery (NRS 200.481), and harassment (NRS 200.571), see e.g., Wright v. Starr, 42 Nev. 441 (1919).
- Nevada Revised Statute 179.245; Baliotis v. Clark County, 102 Nev. 568, 729 P.2d 1338 (1986).
- Nevada Revised Statute 179.255.