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Maryland Fraternities, Sororities and Criminal Charges

With the prevalence of fraternities and sororities on college campuses in Maryland there are a variety of criminal charges that could potentially come into play. Below, a Maryland student defense attorney discusses common charges fraternity or sorority members may face and what a lawyer can do to help. Call today to begin building a defense for your case.

Common Criminal Charges Fraternities and Sororities May Face

Most often on college campuses sororities or fraternities face charges associated with furnishing alcohol to minors, underage drinking, and those charges associated with hazing.

Hazing is typically done during initiation, when members of fraternities or sororities may ask pledges of the organization to participate in activities that might be harassing. A few of them might be violent and might endanger them in some way or humiliate them in some way. This could potentially lead to criminal charges.

College campuses have given very specific rules to sororities and fraternities on initiation proceedings, how far initiation proceedings can go and what is considered over the line. However, due to the traditions that are associated with many of these organizations they still find themselves in circumstances where they are crossing the line and where they are under the scrutiny of university officials.

Often, these investigations can go into criminal proceedings as well, where local authorities and court systems become involved if the activities that they are involving their members or potential members in are endangering them to such a degree that more authorities than just university police need to be involved.

Are Hazing Charges The Same As Assault or Sexual Harassment Charges?

They certainly can be. Hazing charges don’t have to be assault charges or sexual charges, but if those are the kinds of acts that are associated with hazing then certainly those can be the charges that may come out of the investigation. There are other kinds of charges as well, such as furnishing alcohol to minors or harassing them in some way by electronic media, telephone or in person, all the way up to charges that are more serious, such as asking them to commit acts of sex, sexual assaults or physical assaults to some other person.

What Does It Mean to Receive Hazing Charges?

Hazing charges are common because hazing is really just another word in many sororities or fraternities for initiation. There are some things that these organizations require their pledges to go through, such as an understanding of the organization, its history, its rules and its philosophies, and those can be things that involve written exams or oral exams which are usually of a very innocuous nature.

Then there have been cases where a fraternity or sorority also gets into things that are inappropriate, which really go over the line of what is permissible morally and legally by the university as well as by local prosecuting authorities. Hazing procedures are regulated to a great degree and schools want to make sure that they don’t cross over that line from something that could be fun to something that could be potentially dangerous.

Legal Consequences Fraternities and Sororities May Face

There can be consequences as simple as doing some kind of community service hours or attending class, all the way up to facing consequences like expulsion from campus and suspension from campus. Then there is the possibility of a criminal forum, things like jail time, probation and even having to register on a sex offender registry if the charges generate that kind of sentence.

Can Charges On Campus Lead To Actual Criminal Charges?

They can depending on what it is that the investigation yields and if the charges actually have criminal acts associated with them rather than just simply violate campus ethics, such as sexual assault or physical assault, thefts or some other criminal activities. Certainly university officials can share that information with local authorities and a criminal prosecution can generate from there.

How a Student Defense Attorney Can Help

It is important to have an attorney to make sure that the student is not jeopardizing his or her position in a couple of different ways. First, the student does not want to say too much during a disciplinary proceeding. Students do not want to give away information that could then potentially be used against them in a criminal prosecution.

University officials often share their records with authorities at the state level and those records could potentially be used in a criminal prosecution against them. What they might be facing on campus, which is a non-criminal penalty, such as a suspension or an expulsion, could be magnified during a criminal prosecution. One might be facing a significant amount of jail time, probation and possible sex offender registration.

Another way an attorney can help is by assisting the individual in negotiating with prosecutors in criminal proceedings or with the disciplinary board at the university level to try and modify any kind of sentence or punishment to something that might be more appropriate.