Sexual misconduct is among the most serious charges you can face as a college student. It is no exaggeration to say that your entire future is at stake. If you're found responsible, the minimum sanction you'll face is probably suspension. More likely, though, your school will expel you. This means you'll be barred from attending other state schools as well. In fact, your transcript may include a notation about your offense that could keep you from enrolling anywhere, inside the state or out of it.
Given how serious the repercussions of sexual misconduct cases can be, you'd think that schools would take extra precautions to ensure everyone is treated fairly. Unfortunately, campus justice is often heavily weighted in favor of complainants (accusers) rather than respondents (the accused). For example, your school doesn't have to be certain “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to find you guilty. If they're more than fifty percent sure, that's enough.
Given all this, it's vital you find out all you can about how your school treats sexual misconduct cases. You need to know the investigative procedures. You need to know what rights you have and how to safeguard them. Most importantly, though, you need to know what help is available to you. Because while you will want to be as prepared as possible, you must also recognize an important fact: you can't handle this situation alone.
Title IX Cases
The first thing you need to know is that at CUNY, City College, there are two kinds of sexual misconduct cases. The first kind is covered under Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972 and designed to limit sexual discrimination at US colleges and universities. Here's how it works.
- First, all schools must have a designated Title IX Coordinator. The Coordinator receives all complaints of misconduct and makes decisions about which cases to pursue.
- If the Coordinator signs an official complaint against you, they must send you written notice of the charges. This document will contain details about the allegation as well as the name of your accuser.
- You should also be apprised of your rights, including the right to be presumed innocent and the right to choose an advisor. This advisor can be an attorney.
- The first phase of the case is an investigation. The Coordinator appoints the Investigator, who collects evidence and interviews witnesses.
- The Investigator has up to 120 days to complete the investigation. Then, they complete a written report summarizing the evidence. Both sides have ten days to review this document and suggest any revisions before it is forwarded to the Coordinator
- The second phase of the case is a live hearing. The Coordinator sets the date and time for this hearing and selects an Adjudication Committee.
- At the hearing, you can—through your advisor—present evidence and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. Under Title IX, you also have the right to cross-examine the complainant and any witnesses against you. The complainant has these same rights.
- Once they've heard from both sides, the Adjudication Committee will decide the case based on the “preponderance of evidence” standard. Less strict than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” “preponderance of evidence” requires decision-makers to find you responsible if they are more than fifty percent convinced of your guilt.
- Finally, you have the right to appeal the Adjudication Committee's decision, but only under limited circumstances, such as the discovery of new evidence or proof of Title IX procedural mistakes.
Non-Title IX Cases
For many years, Title IX was the only method colleges and universities used for investigating sexual misconduct cases. However, the law changed significantly in 2020, such that some allegations were no longer covered. Many schools, including CUNY, City College, developed alternative procedures for dealing with these allegations.
Here's how non-Title IX cases work at CUNY, City College:
- As in Title IX cases, you are entitled to notice of the charges against you. This should include details about the allegation, the name of the complainant, and a summary of your rights. Here again, you have the right to choose an advisor who may be an attorney.
- An Investigator collects any evidence and interviews witnesses. Both you and the complainant have the right to suggest evidence and witnesses.
- The investigation must be completed within 120 days
- The Investigator must complete a full investigative report. This report must include a summary of the evidence and the Investigator's findings—based on “preponderance of evidence”--as to whether or not you are responsible for sexual misconduct.
- You are not entitled to a hearing
- You may appeal the Investigator's findings, but again, only for certain very specific reasons: a procedural irregularity, new evidence, or conflict of interest.
Obviously, the most significant difference between Title IX and non-Title IX cases is that the latter doesn't allow for a hearing. This means a single person will decide whether or not you are responsible, and you must rely on them entirely to be fair and consider all the appropriate evidence.
Joseph D. Lento, Sexual Misconduct Attorney
By this point, it should be clear just why you need help to defend yourself from sexual misconduct charges. Procedures are complicated and difficult to navigate. You don't have the same rights you would in a court of law. And you can't afford to lose. While your school can't send you to jail, they can put an end to your academic career and make your professional career far more difficult than it needs to be.
You need an attorney, but not just any attorney. You need a Title IX attorney, someone who knows the law, its history, and how it's been adapted to your college campus. Remember: even non-Title IX cases are based on Title IX law.
Joseph D. Lento built his career defending students just like you from all types of sexual misconduct charges. He has an intimate understanding of Title IX. At the same time, he's practiced at dealing with college faculty and administrators. He knows how to negotiate fair settlements, for example, because he speaks the lingo. Make no mistake, though: Joseph D. Lento is tough as nails when it comes to defending his clients. He'll make sure your rights are protected and that you get the very best outcome for your case.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.