Varghese Summersett

It’s popular for young men to rush a fraternity when they arrive at college. Although hazing isn’t present in every fraternity, a culture of needing to “earn your spot” is common. This often causes older members to take advantage of or exploit younger members, creating an environment where dangerous and demeaning activities are normalized. As a result, what begins as a quest for camaraderie can quickly spiral into criminal behavior with serious legal repercussions.

Though it’s widely recognized that fraternity hazing in Texas is a sort of “right of passage,” many college students don’t understand the full scope of consequences that can occur as a result of this behavior. Hazing is a criminal violation under Texas law that can follow you far beyond college and damage the reputation of the fraternity and university.

In this article, the criminal defense attorneys at Varghese Summersett explain the law and the legal and collateral consequences of fraternity hazing in Texas. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and the fraternity from facing legal action for participating in hazing in the Lone Star State. 

What Constitutes Hazing in Texas?

What Constitutes Hazing in Texas? 

Under Texas state law, specifically Section 37.151 of the Texas Education Code, hazing is defined as: “any intentional, knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution, by one person alone or acting with others, directed against a student, for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in an organization if the act:

(A)  is any type of physical brutality, such as whipping, beating, striking, branding, electronic shocking, placing of a harmful substance on the body, or similar activity;

(B)  involves sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements, confinement in a small space, calisthenics, or other similar activity that subjects the student to an unreasonable risk of harm or that adversely affects the mental or physical health or safety of the student;

(C)  involves consumption of a food, liquid, alcoholic beverage, liquor, drug, or other substance that subjects the student to an unreasonable risk of harm or that adversely affects the mental or physical health or safety of the student;

(D)  is any activity that induces, causes, or requires the student to perform a duty or task that involves a violation of the Penal Code; or

(E)  involves coercing, the student to consume a drug or an alcoholic beverage or liquor in an amount that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the student is intoxicated, as defined by Texas law.

Fraternity Hazing in Texas

What Are Some Common Examples Of Hazing?

Hazing can take many forms, ranging from subtle coercion to extreme physical and psychological abuse. It often masquerades as tradition or team-building but can have devastating consequences for those involved. The following are some common examples of hazing:

  • Forced or coerced consumption of food, drink, alcohol, or drugs
  • Branding
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Verbal abuse
  • Threats
  • Physical abuse (such as beating or paddling)
  • Humiliation (forcing someone to wear embarrassing clothing or perform embarrassing acts)
  • Isolation from other members or activities
  • Assigning meaningless, difficult, or humiliating tasks
  • Unreasonable interference with academic work or extracurricular activities

These acts are often carried out under the guise of tradition or team-building but can lead to severe physical and emotional harm. Fraternity hazing in Texas is illegal and punishable under the law.

When is someone guilty of hazing in Texas?

When is an Individual Guilty Of Hazing? 

Under Section 37.152 of the Texas Education Code, a person commits an offense if the person: 

  1. Engages in hazing; 
  2. Solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid another in engaging in hazing; 
  3. Recklessly permits hazing to occur; or
  4. Has firsthand knowledge of the planning of a specific hazing incident involving a student in an educational institution, or has firsthand knowledge that a specific hazing incident has occurred, and knowingly fails to report that knowledge in writing to the dean of students or another appropriate official of the institution.

Punishment for Fraternity Hazing in Texas 

  • Failing to report hazing and hazing that does not result in serious bodily injury are both Class B misdemeanors, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2000 fine.
  • Hazing that results in serious bodily injury is a Class A misdemeanor,  =punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $4000, or both.
  • Hazing that causes a death is a state jail felony, punishable by six months to 2 years in a state jail facility.

Additionally, Texas state law doesn’t limit an educational institution’s right to enforce its own penalties against hazing. In other words, the college can also impose additional penalties, such as suspension or expulsion.

What Makes an Organizatin Guilty of Hazing in Texas?

What Makes an Organization Guilty of Hazing in Texas?

In Texas, organizations and institutions – such as the college or the fraternity – can also be held responsible and punished for hazing. Under Section 37.153 of the Texas Eduction Code, an organization commits an offense if the organization “condones or encourages hazing or if an officer or any combination of members, pledges, or alumni of the organization commits or assists in the commission of hazing.” An organization found guilty of hazing can be fined between $5000-$10,000.

Collateral Consequences of Hazing

Collateral Consequences of Hazing in Texas 

Collateral consequences of a criminal conviction in Texas refer to the additional penalties that attach to criminal convictions. These consequences can impact various aspects of a person’s life beyond the direct penalties like fines and imprisonment. Collateral consequences of fraternity hazing in Texas can be significant and far-reaching. Here’s an overview of some potential consequences:

  1. Criminal Charges: As mentioned previously, Texas has strict laws against hazing. If a student is found guilty of fraternity hazing in Texas, they can face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the severity of the injury to the victim. Consequences can include fines, jail time, and a criminal record.
  2. Academic Consequences: Most universities in Texas have policies that strictly prohibit hazing. If a student is found to have violated these policies, they may face academic penalties such as suspension or expulsion. Additionally, this will remain on the student’s academic record, which will make it difficult to transfer or become employed.
  3. Loss of Scholarships and Financial Aid: Students involved in hazing may lose scholarships or financial aid, especially if the scholarships are contingent on maintaining a clean disciplinary record.
  4. Damage to Reputation: Being involved in a hazing incident can greatly damage a student’s reputation, both among peers and beyond. This can impact future employment, as employers will be hesitant to hire someone with a criminal past.
  5. Personal Liability: Students who engage in hazing activities may also face civil lawsuits from victims seeking compensation for injuries or emotional damage. This can lead to a hefty financial burden and long-term legal consequences.
  6. Impact on Future Opportunities: Hazing can affect future opportunities, including internships, job offers, and admission to graduate programs. Many employers and universities conduct background checks that will reveal a student’s record.
  7. Social Consequences: The social consequences of being involved in hazing can include exclusion from peer groups, social networks, and extracurricular activities, specifically those facilitated by the university. 

It’s important for students to understand the severity of fraternity hazing in Texas and its potential to impact all aspects of their future negatively.

Fraternity Hazing in Texas

Real Examples of Fraternity Hazing in Texas

Here are some examples of people arrested or sued for fraternity hazing in Texas:

  • In December 2022, the University of Texas at Austin disciplined the student organization “Absolute Texxas” for hazing violations, including alcohol and drug misconduct, blindfolding, kidnapping, and degrading new members through demeaning actions. While no arrests were mentioned, the organization faced sanctions.
  • In October 2021, two pledges from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at Texas A&M University sued the fraternity for $1 million after alleging they were hazed. They claimed they were forced to do “kinesthetic activities” and had industrial-strength cleaner and other substances like raw eggs and spit poured on them, resulting in serious burns requiring skin graft surgeries.
  • In September 2018, a 19-year-old member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Texas Christian University was arrested for allegedly hazing pledges. He forced a pledge to chug a beer and then emptied a bottle of sprinkles into the pledge’s mouth.
  • In September 2013, 13 members of the Texas State Bobcat Marching Band were arrested and suspended for hazing incidents. While not a fraternity, this shows hazing arrests occurring on Texas college campuses.

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What To Do If You’re Accused Or Arrested For
Fraternity Hazing in Texas

If you have been accused of fraternity hazing in Texas, there are two things you need to do without hesitation: Refuse to talk to police or school officials without an attorney and call an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.

  • Don’t Talk to Police or School Officials or Provide a Statement Without an Attorney

Any statements made to authorities can and will be used against you in a court of law. So keep quiet and invoke your right to an attorney. Do not make any statements or answer any questions without your attorney present. 

  • Call an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney as Soon as Possible

If you or a loved one has been accused of fraternity hazing in Texas, it’s imperative to contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. A seasoned attorney can provide guidance, protect your rights, and help build a strong defense against the charges.

They will work diligently to investigate the details of your case, challenge any evidence presented against you, and negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf. Early intervention by a skilled lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case, potentially reducing penalties or even achieving a dismissal of charges. Don’t wait—get the legal support you need to navigate this challenging time and safeguard your future.

Accused of Hazing in North Texas? Contact Us. 

If you or a loved one has been arrested for or accused of an incident related to hazing, your next call needs to be to an experienced defense attorney. We can help. Our team is made up of experienced, award-winning criminal attorneys who have a proven record of success. When your future is on the line, you want the best in your corner. Call (817) 203-2220 today.

Fort Worth Criminal Defense Lawyers

Varghese Summersett is a premier criminal defense firm based in Fort Worth, Texas. Our attorneys focus exclusively on criminal law and represent clients charged with crimes at both the state and federal level. We handle everything from DWI to capital murder to white collar crime. Collectively, our attorneys bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience and have tried more than 550 cases before Texas juries. All of our senior attorneys served as former state or federal prosecutors and four are Board Certified in Criminal law, the highest designation an attorney can reach. We are the firm people turn to when the stakes are high and they are facing the biggest problem in their lives. - Contact Varghese at  
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