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Hazing Crimes During Pledge Week

For many people, Greek life is the highlight of their college experience. They take great pride in joining the fraternity or sorority of their choice and participating in a wealth of activities. Historically, all pledges were subject to some hazing—usually, some inconvenient and mildly embarrassing activity, which they endured so they could receive an invitation to join. But some Greek organizations take things much too far. In fact, some pledges have died during hazing rituals, often involving alcohol.

Texas has responded by criminalizing many popular hazing activities. If you break the law, you can leave college with more than warm memories—you’ll also have a criminal record. Please contact a Houston criminal defense attorney at Tad Nelson & Associates. We can review the charges against you or your child.

Pledge Week Horror Stories

Hazing rituals which result in serious injuries often make the news. The details of some are alarming. A student in California, for example, died in the woods during a hike with members of a fraternity he sought to join. He was dehydrated because the fraternity allegedly brought insufficient water. He was also required to wear shoes that didn’t fit.

Two students at Bowling Green University were sentenced to 6 weeks in jail for the binge drinking death of a pledge. The student had been forced to finish a bottle of alcohol and was found unconscious at his apartment later.

Closer to home, a student at the University of Houston alleged that he suffered food and water deprivation for days. He also ended up with a ruptured spleen.

Hazing is Illegal in Texas

Texas Education Code § 37.151 prohibits hazing in educational institutions. It makes it illegal to do any of the following activities:

  • Physical brutality, like beating, branding, shocking, or putting harmful substances on the body
  • Sleep deprivation, exposure to elements, and other activities that adversely affect a pledge’s health or safety or create an unreasonable risk 
  • Consumption of alcohol, drugs, food, or liquids that create an unreasonable risk of harm or adversely affect the student’s health and safety
  • Any activity that violates the Texas Penal Code
  • Coercion to consume drugs or consume enough alcohol to cause intoxication

Section 37.154 also removes consent as a defense. That can have dramatic consequences, since consent is often an effective defense in other contexts. This means that those running a fraternity or sorority must carefully avoid violating the law.

If an individual commits, aids, or encourages hazing, they have committed either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor, depending on the seriousness of any injuries. If someone dies, then they can face state jail felony charges and up to two years behind bars.

Being charged with hazing doesn’t preclude other criminal charges, either, such as manslaughter or drug possession. In fact, someone could face multiple criminal charges for what they thought was a “fun” hazing ritual.

Contact Tad Nelson Right Away

Millions of people remember their time in a fraternity or sorority warmly. When hazing gets out of control, however, innocent people get hurt. And you face more than the risk of expulsion. You can also end up in jail. Please contact our firm today to find out more in a free consultation.