Last year, the Beta Theta Pi chapter at Penn State was permanently banned after sophomore Timothy Piazza died on his bid acceptance night into the fraternity. At the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, Piazza was made to consume 18 drinks in 82 minutes. He fell down a flight of stairs and died from traumatic brain injury. As a result, several former Beta Theta Pi members were criminally charged with hazing, tampering with evidence and reckless endangerment.
Closer to home here in Georgia, Maxwell Gruver—a Roswell teen—died in an alleged hazing incident at Louisiana State University in September of 2017. He had just started his freshman year at LSU and was seeking to join Phi Delta Theta. Gruver, too, had consumed copious amounts of alcohol during a hazing ritual known as “Bible Study.” During the ritual, new pledges would be asked to answer questions about the fraternity. If they answered wrong, they were then forced to drink alcohol. An autopsy revealed that Gruver died of acute alcohol intoxication. Gruver’s parents have since filed a lawsuit against LSU, Phi Delta Theta and some of its members.
Earlier this year and here in Georgia, three Greek organizations at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega were also suspended due to hazing and alcohol violations. So, what are Georgia’s laws on hazing?
Georgia Laws on Hazing
Under O.C.G.A. 16-5-61, it shall be unlawful for any person to haze any student in connection with or as a condition or precondition of gaining acceptance, membership, office, or other status in a school organization. Georgia law defines hazing as subjecting a student to an activity which endangers or is likely to endanger the physical health of a student, regardless of a student’s willingness to participate in such activity. “School” means any school, college or university in this state. “School organization” means any club, society, fraternity, sorority, or a group living together which has students as its principal members. Further, “student” means any person enrolled in a school in the state of Georgia.
Penalties for Violating Georgia’s Hazing Laws
Any person who violates Georgia’s hazing laws shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. There is no definitive fine under the statute; however, a misdemeanor conviction could result in fines, prison time and/or both as decided by a judge or jury.
Defenses to Hazing
A defense to any criminal charge depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. In any criminal case, however, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, a possible defense to a hazing charge would be to prove that the alleged victim/student was not put in any danger during an initiation process. Another possible defense could be to provide an alibi or other evidence showing that you did not participate in the alleged hazing. Both defenses could result in the prosecution dismissing the charges against you.
Charged with Hazing? Contact Lawerence Legal Today
If you are a member of a Greek organization and have been charged with hazing or the parents of one, call us today. We have represented clients in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia. Our law firm is committed to helping clients through difficult situations and working to get them the best possible outcome. We invite you to contact us.
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