Why Sorority/Fraternity Hazing Can Land You in Jail in Virginia

Virginia has a long, rich history of higher education, and many of the nation’s oldest fraternities and sororities began right here in our state. Indeed, the very first Greek organization in the United States was started at the College of William and Mary when Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776, the year of our country’s birth. Initiation rites for sororities and fraternities have a rich (if largely secret) history as well, but we have all also heard of situations in which initiation rites can take a dark turn into hazing. And, although many people might believe that hazing is simply a part of the process, hazing can indeed lead to a criminal conviction and jail sentence in Virginia.

Virginia’s Anti-Hazing Criminal Law

Under Virginia VA Code § 18.2-56 (2016), it is a misdemeanor to “haze” a student at a college, university, or other school in a manner that causes that student bodily injury. Pursuant to the law, “hazing” means “to recklessly or intentionally endanger the health or safety of a student or students or to inflict bodily injury on a student or students in connection with or for the purpose of initiation, admission into or affiliation with or as a condition for continued membership” in any of the following types of groups:

  • Clubs
  • Organizations
  • Associations
  • Fraternities
  • Sororities
  • Student bodies

Importantly, for the purposes of the law, it does not matter whether or not the alleged victim that was endangered or injured voluntarily participated in the “hazing” activity. Thus, even if a person did agree to the activity that caused injury, another person who carried out or facilitated the activity can still face jail time.

Why You Should Take Hazing Allegations/Investigations Seriously

If allegations and/or investigations into hazing do arise, it is important to take them seriously even if the activities at issue seem widespread or otherwise common. A prosecuting attorney is not beholden to college customs or traditions in deciding whether to pursue criminal hazing charges and may indeed desire to set an example by coming down hard on a particular individual or organization.

Furthermore, based on Virginia’s approach to conspiracy and accomplice liability, a person can be guilty of hazing and other crimes even if that person did not himself commit the hazing activity. If two or more people agree to carry out illegal hazing and take steps to do so (e.g. inviting a pledge over), a prosecutor may argue there was an illegal conspiracy even if the hazing was never completed. And where one person carries out an act of hazing, others may nevertheless be liable as accomplices for simply assisting or encouraging the act.

If you or an organization you belong to are under potential investigation for hazing in Virginia, you are advised to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Experienced Virginia Criminal Defense Attorneys On Your Side

If you have been arrested for or are under investigation for hazing or any other criminal acts in Virginia, the criminal defense attorneys at Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, Virginia, are here to help. We will fully investigate all potential defenses and do whatever it takes to protect your reputation and your future. Contact us today to schedule a consultation regarding your situation.

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Bennett Brasfield

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