5 Reasons Why You Need a Lawyer for Your Title IX Defense

You've worked hard over years to get to where you are today in your education. The record you've built for yourself at school, college, or university sets the tone for your career success moving forward. No matter what industry or profession you choose to pursue, the hiring recruiters looking at your resume will no doubt want to see your transcript and student record.

A Title IX finding of sexual misconduct could tarnish an otherwise spotless student transcript. Sexual misconduct is a serious charge, with consequences for your educational career, your professional aspirations, and possible criminal repercussions. If your school finds you responsible for sexual misconduct under Title IX, the charge will likely appear on your permanent student record. This can be difficult to scrub clean.

Title IX cases come with significant consequences for students accused of sexual misconduct. This is because, when it comes to sexual misconduct, there are generally no “mild” cases. Sexual misconduct or assault of any degree is regarded harshly in educational and professional settings. If you've been falsely accused of sexual misconduct of any kind, you may struggle to recover your personal and professional reputation.

This is especially true the farther along you are in your education. Postgraduate and professional programs tend to get smaller the more specialized they are. Your chosen field's academic and professional worlds may overlap quite a bit. If you're in a doctoral program looking to pursue a career in academia, a Title IX finding of sexual misconduct can hamstring your ability to find positions on campuses across the country.

So what can you do about this? How can you protect yourself?

Firstly, the biggest mistake students make when they find out they're the subject of a Title IX accusation is to avoid the situation completely or not take it seriously enough. A false accusation of sexual misconduct can be hard to cope with. You may want to ignore it with the hope that it will go away on its own. After all, if you know you're innocent, you figure that any evidence found during your Title IX investigation will prove as much.

Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. If you make no effort to cooperate with the Title IX process, your side of the story will go unheard. You cannot assume that your school's Title IX office will uncover evidence of your innocence. If you fail to provide your own evidence, your Title IX office may conduct their investigation based solely on the evidence given by your accuser. Such a case is naturally going to be biased against you.

Fortunately, every student has the right to a Title IX advisor to help them with their case. You also have the option of hiring a lawyer as your Title IX advisor.

In fact, hiring a lawyer is the single best thing you can do for your Title IX defense.

Simply put, a lawyer has specialized skills that a non-lawyer advisor does not. But you shouldn't hire just any lawyer for your Title IX defense. You should find a lawyer who works specifically with Title IX cases, as they have the right expertise to help.

There are many reasons to hire a Title IX attorney as your advisor for your defense. below are the top five ways a Title IX lawyer can help you get a better outcome for your case.

Call experienced nationwide Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento now at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation of your Title IX case. 

1. Stakes Are High With Harsh Title IX Penalties

Aside from the damage to your record, a Title IX finding of responsibility for sexual misconduct has swift and often harsh penalties, which schools call sanctions.

In some cases of minor academic misconduct, the student found responsible might be let off the hook with just a warning. But because sexual misconduct cases are so serious, a warning is usually not considered a proportional penalty. Instead, students found responsible for sexual misconduct face academic probation, suspension, or even expulsion from school.

These consequences will become a part of your student record. Any other school or employer looking at your student transcript will see that disciplinary action was taken against you. Many schools and employers require you to disclose any such disciplinary actions as part of the application process. Unfortunately, this can hurt your academic and professional careers. You may struggle to find a job or gain admission to other schools.

The effects of Title IX sanctions are immediate. If you're put on academic probation, another violation can lead to suspension or expulsion. Students who get suspended or expelled are often required to leave campus immediately. That means you'll lose whatever credits you've earned and any payments you've made for that semester so far. Even if your sanctions are announced a week before finals – you lose that entire semester of hard work.

What makes the situation worse is that it's much harder to overturn your school's Title IX ruling after the decision has been made.

If your school determines that you're responsible for sexual misconduct, it's much harder to appeal that decision after the fact. If you're waiting and hoping for the best in your Title IX case, by the time you realize you need to take action, you'll be that much more at a disadvantage.

The best time to hire a Title IX lawyer as your advisor is as soon as you find out you're the subject of a Title IX investigation. if you're on the receiving end of a sexual misconduct allegation, you have no time to spare. The sooner you get started on your defense, the better you can build a body of evidence to support your innocence.

2. Specialization in the Title IX Process

Title IX proceedings proceed quickly. Although the new Title IX rules released by the Department of Education in 2020 may change this timeline, many Title IX cases resolve within 60 days. You don't have the time to rely on an inexperienced advisor.

Title IX cases come with unique issues because The Title IX system is separate from the civil and criminal court system. A regular civil or criminal lawyer would be out of their element when it comes to Title IX proceedings – and that can cost you.

In fact, Title IX proceedings differ from school to school. The federal government sets national guidelines through the Department of Education but colleges and universities have some choice in how they enforce Title IX on their campuses. Some schools may come down harsher on the accused than others. An attorney who specializes in Title IX cases knows the challenges facing students accused of sexual misconduct.

Not just that, but an experienced Title IX lawyer will have built relationships with Title IX offices in colleges and universities across the country. This familiarity helps smooth out the process for clients. Your attorney's expertise will help you:

  • Understand both the national culture around Title IX and the culture at your campus
  • Navigate the specific Title IX procedural requirements at your school
  • Communicate effectively with your school's Title IX office
  • Find and present relevant and compelling evidence in your defense
  • Argue for more lenient sanctions based on mitigating circumstances

Title IX cases are sensitive and nuanced. Your Title IX defense requires an individually-tailored approach based on the facts of your case and the Title IX culture at your school.

3. Live Cross-Examination Under the New Title IX Rules

Cross-examination is one of the most important Title IX developments in recent years. The Department of Education's new 2020 rules, known as the Title IX Final Rule, allow live witness cross-examination in Title IX proceedings. This is where having an experienced lawyer as your Title IX advisor can make a huge difference in your case. While a non-attorney might have experience as a Title IX advisor, they don't have the cross-examination experience necessary now.

Cross-examination is considered a cornerstone of legal fact-finding. Lawyers use cross-examination regularly in civil and criminal cases in order to question witnesses and get to the truth of a case.

Previously, the use of cross-examination was severely limited in Title IX proceedings. However, over the years, students accused of misconduct argued that without cross-examination, they were unable to properly defend themselves against the allegations. Students filed lawsuits against their schools for violating their due process rights under the Constitution.

Having an attorney as your advisor is even more important now that cross-examination is allowed in Title IX investigatory hearings. Sexual misconduct cases deal with very sensitive and difficult situations. The Title IX live hearing process can be intimidating. The accusations made against you may genuinely be the result of a miscommunication. You need someone who can handle Title IX cross-examination with the sensitivity that the subject matter deserves. An experienced Title IX attorney is the best option for this job.

Joseph D. Lento has practiced cross-examination over the course of his legal career as a defense attorney, combined with two decades of Title IX experience. He has the specialized skills to help you defend yourself against a Title IX sexual misconduct accusation.

4. Presenting Compelling Evidence in Your Defense

Nothing is worse than providing evidence to your school's Title IX office only to find out they can't use it. Just like in civil and criminal court cases, not all evidence is made equal. And not all evidence is admissible, either. That means the proof you rely on to establish your innocence may not actually work for your defense after all.

Or worse – evidence you provide to your school's Title IX office might be used against you in ways you hadn't anticipated. You may even get into other types of trouble with your school, especially if the incident involved alcohol, drugs, or other complicating factors. Your school's student code of conduct policies will also affect how your case is handled.

Evidence is not as simple as you might think. Federal law includes detailed instructions on what types of evidence are allowed in court. The same applies to Title IX cases. The Department of Education's Title IX guidelines include rules on acceptable evidence. A Title IX attorney will be familiar and experienced with Title IX evidentiary requirements.

Your lawyer will help you compile admissible evidence to support your side of the story. A Title IX lawyer will know what types of evidence work best and what to look or ask for. Your lawyer may even conduct an investigation of their own in order to uncover more evidence. You won't have to rely on your school's Title IX office to find evidence of your innocence.

In addition, your Title IX lawyer will help keep your school's Title IX office honest. Your attorney will make sure your school follows all of its own guidelines as well as those set by the Department of Education. Your lawyer's job is to make sure that your rights as the accused are protected at every turn in the Title IX process. Unfortunately, even with a school's best efforts, mistakes can be made. Without someone in your corner watching out for you at all times, your Title IX case may get stacked against you in unexpected ways.

5. Handling Possible Civil or Criminal Charges

Although Title IX cases are limited to schools, the subject matter can carry consequences beyond campus. Sexual misconduct is a serious allegation with both civil and criminal punishments. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be looking at multiple investigations beyond your school's Title IX office. It's even possible for the police to investigate you for sexual assault at the same time your school investigates you for sexual misconduct.

If you hire a Title IX attorney as your advisor, their legal degree allows them to handle all aspects of your case, including separate civil and criminal issues. Your lawyer can put together a unified legal strategy to help you avoid additional liability as much as possible.

This is important because criminal cases carry the possibility of fines or even jail time – along with a criminal record. Civil actions carry the risk of monetary damages. Your lawyer can help anticipate any such potential legal issues and avoid making them worse. They can help you craft your defense without accidentally opening yourself up to other legal actions.

For example, schools often share Title IX investigation files with the police. As a result, anything you may have said to a Title IX officer at your school or presented as evidence in your case may be used against you in criminal court. Your lawyer can even handle both of the matters for you at the same time, allowing you to consolidate your legal approach.

If you choose a Title IX advisor who is not a lawyer, you would have to start over with a defense attorney to handle any civil or criminal matters that come about. Instead, if you work with a Title IX attorney from the beginning, they can simply continue to handle your case without you having to lose additional time on finding new legal representation.

Other Advantages of Hiring a Title IX Attorney

Your Title IX lawyer is the one person in the whole Title IX process who has your back at all times. Their job is to defend you throughout the process. Their experience and expertise help you establish your innocence and protect your educational career.

When you hire Joseph D. Lento as your Title IX attorney, you have someone looking out for all your interests – student, civil, and criminal. Unfortunately, a Title IX allegation of sexual misconduct is extremely serious. If you're a student facing a Title IX accusation made against you, you don't have to handle the process alone. In fact, you benefit greatly from allowing an expert to handle it for you from the very beginning.

A Title IX accusation of sexual misconduct can be very personal and upsetting. You may be surprised, even – especially if you don't think you did anything wrong. Your Title IX attorney can help coach and support you through the process of establishing your innocence. Having handled thousands of Title IX cases across the United States, Joseph D. Lento can help you navigate the Title IX process as smoothly as possible.

Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to speak to Joseph D. Lento about your Title IX defense. The sooner you get started, the better you can prepare your defense – the sooner you can look forward to getting back on track with your studies.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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