University of Miami Fraternity Under Investigation after Hazing Video Goes Viral

March 20, 2024 College, College Student Disciplinary Hearing, Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

A recent video of University of Miami (UM) students has gone viral after depicting an alleged hazing incident. The video took place on UM’s campus and showed several students chugging milk and then spitting it back up onto another student in the trash can. While not technically a violent incident, the conduct is still being investigated by the university as a potential hazing event.

Hazing is prohibited by all Florida colleges and universities. Hazing is also considered illegal under Florida law. That means when a student or student organization is accused of committing hazing, they can face repercussions from both the university and from law enforcement. A person charged with a hazing crime either faces a misdemeanor or felony, depending on whether the incident resulted in serious injury or death.

Any student or person being accused of a hazing act should fully understand their rights and the legal options they have available to them for defense.

Potential Hazing Incident Caught on Film

Members of the University of Miami’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity are under investigation after a video leaked of potential hazing. According to the report by The Miami Hurricane, a video taken from the neighboring fraternity house shows four students assumed to be fraternity pledges outside in broad daylight committing an act of hazing.

One of the four students is shown crouching down into a trash can while three other students stand surrounding the trash can. The three standing students began to drink large amounts of milk, then either spitting or vomiting up the drink onto the student sitting inside the trash can. The video displayed the image of vomit running down the fourth student’s back while inside the trash can.

The person filming the video can be heard saying, “Oh no not him going in the f—ing thing. That’s nasty. Are they going to f—ing yak on him?”

The video has already reached UM’s administration, with the following statement being provided to The Miami Hurricane: “The Dean of Student Offices is aware of the incident. We take these situations seriously and are looking into the matter.”

UM has announced that this is an ongoing investigation into the fraternity. Depending on their decision, the students involved could face repercussions due to Florida’s anti-hazing law, which was established due to a fatal hazing incident that took place at UM involving student Chad Meredith.

The following is a statement from the fraternity’s national chapter regarding the incident:

“The Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity Service Center has received a report related to an alleged incident involving our Chapter at The University of Miami. We have placed our Chapter on a Cease & Desist and are working jointly with the University to investigate.”

A cease and desist is an order or letter by the administrative agency either requiring that certain practices stop, or to warn that legal action will be taken if the conduct in question continues.

Difference Between Misdemeanor and Felony Hazing Acts in Florida

Under Florida’s anti-hazing law, a person can either face a misdemeanor or felony offense for acts that are classified as “hazing.”

Codified under Florida Statute Section 1006.63(3), a person would be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for hazing if they intentionally or recklessly commit, solicit another person to commit, or is actively involved in the planning of any act of hazing to another member, former member, or applicant of any student organization that creates a substantial risk of physical injury or death.

Under Florida Statute Section 1006.63(2), a person would be charged with a third-degree felony for hazing if they intentionally or recklessly commit, solicit another person to commit, or is actively involved in the planning of any act of hazing to another member, former member, or applicant of any student organization that results in serious bodily injury, permanent injury, or the death of another person.

In addition to the fines and sentencing periods outlined under the statute, a person convicted of a hazing offense would also be required to complete a 4-hour hazing education course, as well as the possibility of being placed on drug or alcohol probation.

Important: It is not considered a valid defense to a hazing incident if the alleged victim consented to the act, if the incident that resulted in death or injury was not an “official” event by the organization, or if the conduct or incident that resulted in death or injury was not done as a condition of membership to the organization.

Find out more about Florida’s law against hazing and the potential penalties and defenses available in our informative page here.

Repeat of UM’s Sigma Phi Epson’s Chapter Closure?

The most recent accusation of hazing at UM could end with the same result as the 2022 incident. Former UM fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon was shut down indefinitely following an incident that took place at a college party.

Members of the fraternity were called out after a video went viral of them chanting hateful speech about committing sexual battery against dead women. There were also allegations of partygoers being drugged, with several students claiming that their drinks were filled with a white, powder-like substance.

Due to both allegations of hate speech and alleged drugging of students, Sigma Phi Epsilon made the decision to close the UM chapter. Could the same go for the fraternity most recently accused of hazing? Potentially.

Students who break the student code of conduct at a registered university can face punishment through a student disciplinary hearing, which can result in suspension, expulsion, removal from the organization, or even revoking the organization from continuing at UM. Additionally, any student violation that is also considered a criminal offense (such as hazing) can also result in criminal prosecution. 

The Need for Criminal Defense for College Students

College students are looking to have fun in a safe learning environment. While student organizations provide this social outing opportunity, there are certain scenarios that could result in trouble with the university, the law, or both. Incidents such as hazing, possessing a fake ID, and underage DUI are all common among young college students. It’s important to understand the implications of a criminal charge as well as knowing how to fight back to prevent a conviction.

The best way to protect yourself and your future is by hiring a legal professional well-versed in providing criminal defense for college students. Pumphrey Law Firm proudly represents students and alumni of FSU and FAMU who have wrongfully been accused of a crime and need defense.

Contact Pumphrey Law Firm

Any allegation of a hazing incident in a high school or college setting should not be taken lightly. Oftentimes the school or organization in charge of the groups accused of engaging in such behavior will suspend or expel the program. The students, alumni, or individuals involved in an alleged hazing event can face punishment from both their school and law enforcement. While social groups like fraternities are meant to bring students together, these unfortunate events can result in losing out on the rest of your college experience.

If you are a college student being accused of a hazing incident or the parent of a college aged student who is facing allegations of hazing, you should consider hiring legal representation with a defense attorney. There may be defenses available to you and your case to avoid a conviction. Contact Don Pumphrey and his criminal defense team at Pumphrey Law to schedule a free consultation to review your case details. Call (850) 681-7777 or fill out our form online.

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