When Frat-House Pranks and Toga Parties Go Horribly Wrong

Ah, college – a time for fun and freedom, with a little learning thrown in. For a lot of young men and women, college seems like a fun stop on the way to the “real” world of 9 to 5 jobs and utility bills. Whether you’re a UT Volunteer in Knoxville or a Blue Raider in Murfreesboro, however, the penalties for a criminal charge can cost you more than just money. In some cases, they could cost you your entire college career.

College students in particular face a unique set of challenges when they’re charged with a crime. Aside from fines and potential jail time, a Tennessee college kid could also lose housing or a place on sports teams (many of which have morality clauses) or even be expelled from school. Spray painting the name of your Greek house on campus might seem like a prank, but it can lead to criminal charges.

Hazing isn’t harmless; it’s a crime

More than DUI, more than property theft, perhaps even more than sexual assault, the crime most people associate with college kids is hazing. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s policy asks students to consider the following questions when it comes to defining hazing:

  • Does the activity involve mental distress such as humiliation or intimidation?
  • Does it involve physical abuse (e.g., sleep deprivation)?
  • Is there a significant risk of injury or a question of safety?
  • Would you have any reservations describing the activity to your parents or a university official?
  • Is alcohol involved?
  • Would you be worried if the activity was shown on the evening news?

There’s nothing funny about facing hazing charges; they can cost you your future if you’re convicted. If there’s alcohol involved, you risk additional charges for underage drinking (if you’re younger than 21), which has severe penalties such as thousands of dollars in fines and a loss of your driver’s license.

It’s vitally important to remember that even a student who gives permission to be hazed isn’t in the position to do so; it’s still against most schools’ policies, regardless of student willingness. The penalties can be seen as more serious, however, if the person being hazed feels he or she was bullied into it. That’s because Tennessee schools which accept federal funding are required by law to address any forms of discrimination, and a hazing charge can quickly escalate to a discrimination charge against you and/or your friends.

If you’ve been accused of hazing, speak to a criminal defense lawyer who works with college kids in Tennessee. You don’t want to face these charges alone.