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By: Yvonne Baker

The fraternity or sorority you wanted to join since freshman year is finally having a rush! You have all of the qualifications: the perfect GPA, an impressive resume, a stand-out application, and the most passion in the pool of pledges. You dream of a brotherhood or sisterhood to build on your laundry list of college memories, but you never expected the horror and humiliation you would have to endure to make it in. 

Fraternity/sorority hazing has become a major concern on college campuses around the country. Some organizations prey on the vulnerability of hopeful students, subjecting them to embarrassing tasks (and even violence) as a ticket to membership. Anti-hazing groups like the W&M Hazing Prevention Coalition have emerged to bring these issues to light in order to bring a stop to this terrible tradition. The Coalition recently hosted their Hazing Prevention Week to increase awareness on the campus and offer ways for students to join the fight against hazing.

The W&M Student Handbook provides a Hazing Policy which states, "It is the responsibility of all student organizations to encourage an atmosphere of learning, social responsibility, and respect for human dignity and to provide positive influences and constructive development for members and aspiring members." The punishments for hazing are clear and harsh. "Organizations found to be in violation of this policy may face sanctions ranging from a warning to a loss of status as a recognized student organization. Individuals found to be in violation of this policy may face sanctions ranging from a warning to dismissal." Please visit the site for the W&M definition of hazing and a list of activities that are prohibited by the policy.

Hazing not only carries institutional stigma but is also a violation of Virginia law. Section 18.2-56 of the Code of Virginia provides the following:

"It shall be unlawful to haze, or otherwise mistreat so as to cause bodily injury, any student at any school, college, or university. Any person found guilty thereof shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, unless the injury would be such as to constitute a felony, and in that even the punishment shall be inflicted as is otherwise provided by law for the punishment of such a felony." Please see the Virginia Hazing Law for more information.

If you are a victim of hazing or know someone who is or has been a victim of hazing please Report Hazing by filling out a form on the W&M website. Let's create a new tradition this semester: a tradition of respect, dignity, and honor for your fellow classmates and friends. Put a halt on hazing!

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By Blaine Adams

We all know that you’d never drink and drive (or, heaven forbid, be drunk in public!), but what if you do get pinched? Should you talk to a lawyer? Should you hope you can pass yourself off as sober? Should you refuse to take a breathalyzer test? These are heady questions with multiple answers, but let’s examine one mythical beast in detail: the breathalyzer.

            First, according to VA Code § 18.2-268.3, it’s unlawful for you to “unreasonably refuse” to take a breathalyzer test. The rationale is that merely by driving a car on the road, you’ve given implied consent to police administration of a breathalyzer test. A first-time violation is a civil offense, and the court will suspend your license for one year. After that, subsequent violations are criminal, and constitute Class 1 and 2 misdemeanors.

            Second, the amount you blow has a very specific meaning. According to VA Code § 18.2-269, if your BAC is .05% or less, the presumption is that you’re not under the influence. However, if your BAC is .08% or higher, the presumption is that you are. Id. What about the middle ground? According to the statute, being in that range is a “fact [that] may be considered with other competent evidence in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused.”

            Finally, what if there’s a mix-up in the handling or classification of your test? It seems like this would be the kind of “technicality” that prints you a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

            Wrong. VA Code § 18.2-268.11 specifically states that the police’s failure to comply on their end doesn’t get you off automatically, but “shall be considered with all the evidence in the case.”

            Remember—the purpose of these laws is to keep you safe. 

By Blaine Adams

            Watch your swearin’ and drinkin’ in Virginia, because there’s a fun statute that could put a damper on your fun time. It’s VA Code § 18.2-388, and it concerns profane swearing and intoxication in public.

            According to VA Code § 18.2-388, Profane Swearing and Intoxication in public is prohibited. Although courts haven’t defined the term “profane swearing,” screaming the F-word at the top of your lungs may not be the best idea, but the choice is totally yours.

            As for “drunk,” in the Fourth Circuit in U.S. v. Brown held that even though the defendant’s eyes were “glassy and bloodshot, his breath smelled strongly of alcohol, and he admitted that he had been drinking,” he wasn’t physically impaired and thus the police did not have the probable cause to arrest him. 401 F.3d 588, 597 (4th Cir. 2005). In fact, the court stated that in every reported Virginia case related to public drunkenness, the defendant was physically impaired. Id. This would seem to suggest that physical impairment, along with other “classic” signals, such as glassy eyes, slurred speech, and the odor of alcohol, provides police officers with probable cause for an arrest.

            So, if we know what “drunk” means, what about “in public?” Intuitively, it may seem to be a public place, such as the Greene Leafe or Colonial Williamsburg. But in Crislip v. Commonwealth, the Court of Appeals held “in public” refers to any place that is either accessible to the public or visible to the public. 554 S.E.2d 96, 98 (2001). That’s right—you can get ticketed if a cop can walk by and see you acting…colorful. Plan accordingly.

            Finally, the infraction is a class 4 misdemeanor, which, according to Va. Code § 18.2-11, is punishable by a maximum fine of $250.

            Have fun this Halloween!

By Blaine Adams

Marijuana legalization support crops up everywhere from Family Guy to Bill Maher’s endless rants on HBO. It’s legal in many states if you have a doctor’s prescription. Now, you might conclude that so much cultural and media support means that marijuana use isn’t really a crime. Or if it is, it’s not so bad.

            Bypassing the fact that you take your legal advice from a smattering of stoned TV writers, consider me the Sadness Fairy here to shove ziplock baggies full of legal reality under your pillow.

            In Virginia, according under Code § 18.2-250.1—helpfully titled “Possession of marijuana unlawful,”—it’s, well, illegal to possess marijuana in Virginia. In the Code’s own words:

            “It is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess marijuana unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription…”         

            This means a couple of things. First, it’s enough that you are aware that you’re holding pot. It doesn’t matter if you don’t plan to smoke it. So don’t think you can “hold” for your friends without facing the same consequences as you would if were actually planning to smoke it. Second, Virginia does have an exception for medical uses. That’s great if have a prescription- get busy lighting up. But I’m guessing if you’re reading this you probably don’t have a doctor on call to write you a prescription when you want to get stoned.

            The statute continues: “Upon the prosecution of a person for violation of this section, ownership or occupancy of the premises or vehicle upon or in which marijuana was found shall not create a presumption that such person either knowingly or intentionally possessed such marijuana.” Code § 18.2-250.1.

            This little sentence actually helps you out quite a bit. If you have friends who hide pot in your car, and you don’t know about it, there’s no presumption that it’s yours.

            According to § 18.2-250.1, possession is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and/or a fine of $500.

            Now you might think that’s not so bad. And maybe it isn’t. But here’s the rub: a second violation bumps the same crime up to a Class 1 misdemeanor. And the punishment for a Class 1 misdemeanor, according to § 18.2-11, is up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500 or both.

            To recap: 1. Marijuana possession is illegal. 2. Getting caught is bad. 3. Getting caught twice is worse. 4.  Become friends with med students. 

 

 by Blaine Adams

You know that sinking feeling you get in your gut when you see flashing red and blue lights in your rear view? I’ve got great news! Your fear is very, very rational.

            Here’s a hypothetical: you’re driving along, minding your own business, and you accidentally hit 81 mph in a 65 mph. Cop sees you… and busted! License and registration, the whole bit. Okay, so you’re going 16 mph over the speed limit. That’s the same as going 41 in a 25. Certainly not good, but it’s not like you’re going to go to jail or anything, right?

            I think you know where I’m going with this. You might be going to jail.

            According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles website, reckless driving can be defined as, among other things, driving over 80 mph, speeding 20 mph over the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions (e.g. driving too fast in the rain), and even just failing to give a proper signal. Oh, and driving recklessly in a parking lot.

            According to Virginia Code §46.2-868, “every person convicted of reckless driving…shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.” As you might already know, a Class 1 misdemeanor is as close to a felony as you can get. And here’s the real Shawshank shocker.       

            The punishment for a Class 1 misdemeanor, according to Virginia Code §18.2-11, is up to a year in jail. Or a fine of $2,500. Or both. All for going one measly mile per hour over the speed limit.

            It may sound a little harsh, but remember that the purpose of this law is to keep you safe by making sure every time you get on the road you don’t have to worry the guy next to you is going to pull something stupid.

            Be safe out there and follow the law.