Not so long ago, hazing was commonly considered an expected rite of passage for those who joined fraternities, sports teams and some “elite” clubs. After a number of tragic deaths related to hazing activities, lawmakers across the country have enacted laws making hazing a crime. Virginia is no exception.
Under Virginia law, hazing “means to recklessly or intentionally endanger the health or safety of a student or students or to inflict bodily injury…in connection with or for the purpose of initiation, admission into or affiliation with or as a condition for continued membership in a club, organization, association, fraternity, sorority, or student body regardless of whether [they]…participated voluntarily in the relevant activity.”
Hazing is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. Of course, a person who participates in hazing can be charged with other offenses, such as providing alcohol to a minor. They can also face civil litigation.
The VCU case
Two years ago, a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) died after he was coerced into drinking an entire bottle of whiskey at a fraternity he was pledging. He had over a .4% blood alcohol content when his body was found.
Just this February, the family of the young man announced a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against 11 former fraternity members charged in the hazing, an alumni advisor and the fraternity itself.
Why legal guidance is crucial if someone is facing hazing charges
It’s all too easy for a combination of peer pressure, alcohol and poor judgment to lead young people to engage in behavior they ordinarily wouldn’t. It can also be only too easy for those who may have had little or no involvement in a dangerous hazing ritual to face the same charges as those who were responsible for it.
Hazing and related criminal charges can derail a college student’s life for years to come. If your child is facing charges, it’s crucial to make sure that they have experienced legal guidance to help protect their rights and their future.