Five Wheaton College football players were recently arrested in DuPage County for hazing a teammate in 2016. According to reports, the players attacked their teammate and left him alone in a field with his limbs taped together with duct tape. The college investigated and issued a punishment that was basically a slap on the wrist: a one-game suspension and community service. The players have now been formally charged with the crimes of aggravated battery and unlawful restraint.
What is Hazing?
Hazing is a broadly defined term that can include a variety of behaviors. Generally, a person can be accused of hazing if they take any act or create any situation that intentionally “causes embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule and risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team.” Hazing can occur even if the victim seemed like a willing participant. Studies show that more than half of students involved in clubs or sports in college have experienced hazing.
Hazing is a problem because it can have both physical and psychological consequences. It is a type of bullying, and victims of can suffer from lifelong issues. As a result, 44 states (including Illinois) have passed hazing-related laws.
Illinois’ hazing law can be found in 720 ILCS 5/12C-50. It states that “a person commits hazing when he or she knowingly requires the performance of any act by a student or other person in a school…for the purpose of induction or admission into any group…if the act results in bodily harm.” Hazing is generally a Class A misdemeanor. If a victim dies or suffers great bodily harm hazing can be a Class 4 Felony.
In some cases, hazing can also result in additional criminal charges. This is the current situation for the Wheaton College football players. They were charged with aggravated battery and unlawful restraint for their hazing actions.
What is Aggravated Battery?
In Illinois, battery is the crime of intentionally:
- making physical contact with another person in an insulting or provoking nature; or
- causing another person to suffer bodily harm.
Battery is usually charged as a misdemeanor. In some situations, the crime of battery can cause serious harm. If this is the case, you can be charged with the crime of aggravated battery. Aggravated battery is essentially a battery with extenuating circumstances.
You can be charged with aggravated battery in Illinois if you commit a battery:
- Which causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement;
- With a caustic or flammable substance, a poisonous gas, chemical agent, radioactive substance, or explosive compound;
- Against someone you know is a law enforcement officer, firefighter, security officer, or correctional officer engaged in their official duties;
- Against someone over the age of 60;
- While strangling someone.
In the Wheaton College football hazing case, the players were likely charged with aggravated battery for causing great bodily harm pursuant to 720 ILCS 5/12-4(a)(1). If the football players are convicted of this Class 3 Felony they can face up to 5 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
What is Unlawful Restraint?
The Wheaton College football players were also arrested for unlawful restraint. In Illinois, the crime of unlawful restraint occurs when you knowingly, and without legal authority to do so, detain another person. The football players reportedly restrained their victim by taping his limbs together with duct tape. Unlawful restraint is a felony offense. If the players are convicted they can face up to 3 years in prison and may be required to pay up to $25,000 in fines.
Fighting Criminal Hazing Charges in Illinois
DuPage County has shown that it is dedicated to fighting the hazing epidemic. It went above and beyond the initial college investigation and has charged the players with serious criminal offenses. It will be important for these players to hire experienced criminal defense attorneys. Their attorneys will argue any defenses that may either (1) point to their actual innocence, or (2) weaken the prosecution’s case.
Defenses to hazing and hazing-related crimes in Illinois may include:
- Lack of intent;
- Defense of others;
- Lack of harm; and/or
- False accusation.
If you have been arrested for hazing or a hazing-related crime, do not hesitate to contact our DuPage County criminal defense attorneys. We will review your case, determine potential defenses, and answer any questions you have.