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What is the code of the Hells Angels?

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is one of the most well-known motorcycle clubs in the world. They are classified as an outlaw motorcycle gang by law enforcement agencies in countries like the United States, Canada, Australia and others. The Hells Angels have a strict code of conduct that all members must follow.

Origins of the Hells Angels Code

The Hells Angels were originally formed in California in the 1940s and their code of conduct has evolved over the decades since. The current code is based on traditional outlaw biker values of loyalty, respect, brotherhood and riding. Some key elements of the code include:

  • Loyalty to the club above all else
  • Respect for fellow members and club leadership
  • Secrecy around club business and activities
  • Solidarity in the face of external threats or pressure
  • Willingness to use violence or intimidation to protect the club

These values originated when the Hells Angels and other outlaw clubs like the Bandidos and Outlaws were formed as a reaction against the rigid conformism and rules of mainstream society in the postwar years. The code functions as a set of shared principles that unite members in a brotherhood or family.

Key Elements of the Hells Angels Code

While the Hells Angels code is shrouded in secrecy, some of the key elements are known through law enforcement intelligence and accounts from former members. Here are some of the main rules and codes that Hells Angels live by:

Loyalty to the Club

Absolute, unquestioning loyalty to the club is one of the fundamental Hells Angels codes. This means prioritizing the club over everything else, including jobs, family relationships and even marriages or partnerships. Betraying club secrets or testifying against fellow members is deeply taboo and often leads to expulsion or violence.

Respect for Rank

The Hells Angels have a hierarchical structure with different ranks and leadership positions. Low-level members must obey the orders of more senior Hells Angels without question. Challenging or showing disrespect to leaders is forbidden. Members must follow club protocols and cannot make independent decisions without approval.


Keeping club business confidential is vitally important. Members must never discuss internal Hells Angels matters with outsiders, even family members or partners. Law enforcement is considered the enemy and members go to great lengths to conceal their activities from police surveillance or infiltration.

Solidarity Against Outsiders

The Hells Angels close ranks in the face of pressure from the outside world. They stand together when facing criminal charges, refusing to cooperate with police investigations. Rival clubs and gangs are met with intimidation, violence or force. The code demands uncompromising club solidarity.

Enforcement of Rules

Penalties for breaking the Hells Angels code range from getting a tattoo forcibly removed to beatings and even murder. Minor infractions mean “taking a beating” from fellow members. More serious betrayals like cooperating with police are punishable by death. This ruthless internal justice system enforce obedience.

Rituals and Symbols

The Hells Angels have traditional rituals and symbols that reinforce their codes and rules. These include:

  • Wearing Hells Angels patches and insignia
  • Rituals for new members like hazing and initiations
  • Regular club meetings or “church” sessions
  • The code of silence when dealing with outsiders
  • Rituals of punishment for members who break the rules

These rituals bond members together, remind them of their commitments and police the boundaries of the club. Only full members in good standing can wear the famous winged death’s-head patch after initiation.

How the Code is Enforced

The Hells Angels have various means of enforcing their code of conduct and rules. These include:

Peer Pressure

Living up to the standards of brotherhood and loyalty expected of members generates intense conformity pressure. Few want to lose status and brotherhood by breaking the rules.

Physical Punishment

Members who disobey orders from above or otherwise break club rules face physical punishment beatings meted out by leaders or fellow members. These beatings are brutal, involving punched, kicks and weapons.


Members who seriously violate club codes like cooperating with police may be stripped of their patches and expelled from the Hells Angels. Expulsion means losing your entire social and economic network.


In some cases, violating club secrecy by informing on the Hells Angels to authorities is punishable by death. While rare, there are cases of members being murdered by their former brothers for serious breaches.

This potent mix of loyalty, fear, intimidation and violence is how the Hells Angels enforce obedience to their code of conduct. Members take the rules extremely seriously given the harsh penalties.

Notable Code Violations

There are some notorious cases that illustrate what happens when Hells Angels members break the code:

  • George Christie – High ranking member who was expelled from the club for cooperating with police and speaking openly about club affairs in media interviews.
  • Serge Quesnel – Member murdered by his club brothers for testifying against a Hells Angel charged with murder.
  • Michael “Taz” Deabaitua-Schulde – Hells Angel murdered by fellow members for unspecified “violations” of club codes.

These cases show the ultimate consequences of violating Hells Angels codes of silence, solidarity and loyalty at all costs.

Law Enforcement View

Here is the view of law enforcement agencies regarding the Hells Angels code:

  • The code condones and facilitates criminal activity within the club’s ranks.
  • It institutionalizes violence as a means of policing behavior.
  • Strict secrecy rules obstruct investigations and prosecutions.
  • Members have carried out violence and intimidation against witnesses.
  • Officers who infiltrate club chapters face danger if their cover is blown.

Police regard the Hells Angels code as a tool for enabling organized crime and subverting the judicial process. However, gathering evidence and testimony to prosecute them is extremely difficult due to the code of silence.

Comparison to Other Outlaw Clubs

The Hells Angels rules and code of conduct have influenced similar outlaw motorcycle clubs. Other prominent clubs like the Bandidos, Outlaws, Pagans and Mongols have adapted and evolved similar codes to forge strict solidarity among members involved in crime.

All have hierarchies, symbols, rituals of membership and fierce loyalty. However, the Hells Angels are regarded as having the most rigid and obsessively enforced code of brotherhood, secrecy and loyalty above all else. Few members ever leave or speak out due to fear of violent retribution.


The Hells Angels code shapes every aspect of members’ lives, on and off their motorcycles. Their motto “Angels Forever, Forever Angels” sums up their lifelong commitment to these rules once they become full members. While the code’s ruthlessness has attracted condemnation, it has also turned the Hells Angels into one of most enduring and cohesive outlaw motorcycle clubs.