Few college and university charges carry the weight of a sexual misconduct charge. Part of this has to do with the stigma that often attaches to such charges. In today's political climate, it can be hard to get a fair hearing when you're facing such a serious allegation.
These cases are further complicated by the fact that sexual misconduct isn't just subject to school policy. The rules for how allegations are treated are set by the federal government, and they are tremendously complicated.
Here's the good news: those rules entitle you to an advisor, who may be an attorney. In other words, you don't have to prepare your defense all on your own. You have the right to professional help. An attorney-advisor can help you understand what you're up against, help you prepare your case, and help you present that case. You need the right attorney, though. A local or family attorney just won't do. You need a Title IX attorney, someone who knows the law and who has experience representing student clients.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
All sexual misconduct cases at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania are handled using procedures set up by the federal government's Title IX statute. In fact, the school's own policy says little other than to affirm that it follows the law. Your defense, then, begins with understanding Title IX.
Title IX was passed in 1972 and prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment, including violence such as stalking, assault, and rape. In addition, the law includes a strict set of guidelines for how schools must investigate and adjudicate all allegations. Those guidelines run to some 550 pages. Only a seasoned attorney will know how to deal with everything on those pages. Here's a rough outline, though, of what you can expect.
- Like all schools, IUP has a designated Title IX Coordinator. This Coordinator sets school policy regarding the law and decides whether or not a given allegation warrants a full investigation.
- If you are being investigated, you are entitled to a Notice of the Charges. This Notice should include the Complainant's name as well as the significant details of the allegation.
- The Notice should further apprise you of your rights under Title IX, including the right to an advisor, the right to review all evidence against you, the right to be treated the same as the Complainant, and the right to be presumed “Not Responsible” (innocent).
- The Coordinator is also responsible for appointing an Investigator to collect the facts of the case.
- The Investigator meets separately with both sides of the case. In addition, they interview any witnesses and collect any physical evidence.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator is required to submit an unbiased summary of their findings. Both sides then have ten days to review this document and suggest any revisions before a final draft is forwarded to the Coordinator.
- Once the Coordinator receives the Investigative Report, they must schedule a formal, live hearing. They are also responsible for selecting one or more Decision Makers to oversee the proceedings.
- The hearing is your opportunity to present your entire case, including arguments, evidence, and witness testimony. In addition, both sides may—through your advisors—cross-examine each other and any witnesses against you.
- Once both sides have presented their cases, the Decision Makers deliberate as to your level of responsibility in the case. To do this, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” If they are over fifty percent convinced—even just a hair over fifty percent—that you committed a violation, they must find you responsible.
- The hearing is not necessarily the end of the case. You also have the right to appeal the hearing outcome. However, grounds for appeal are strictly limited to the discovery of new evidence, a procedural error, or bias on the part of a Title IX official.
Finally, you should know that not every sexual misconduct case these days is dealt with through Title IX. The federal government issued new rules in 2020 that changed the way these cases are treated. Among other changes, off-campus incidents are no longer investigated under Title IX. Instead, many schools now utilize a separate process for these so-called “Non-Title IX” cases.
At present, IUP has no procedures in place for Non-Title IX cases. However, you should know that such incidents are referred to law enforcement where applicable.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
By this point, you should already have some idea of why you need help with your sexual misconduct case. There's a lot at stake. Suspension is usually the minimum penalty, and most of these cases end in expulsion. If you're expelled, that will almost certainly include a transcript notation about the nature of your offense. That could prevent you from enrolling anywhere else. Defending yourself won't be easy, though. Procedures are complex, and you can't expect your school necessarily to do what's in your best interest.
You don't have to face all this alone, though.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney, but he's not just any defense attorney. He's what's known as a Title IX attorney. Here's what that means: Joseph D. Lento built his career defending students just like you from sexual misconduct charges. He knows the law, inside and out. He's studied the Title IX statute and is comfortable working under both Title IX and non-Title IX procedures. In addition, Joseph D. Lento knows how schools operate. He knows the tactics they often use, and he has experience fighting those tactics. Most importantly, though, Joseph D. Lento is on your side. He understands what you're going through, and he'll do everything he can to make sure you're treated fairly and that you get the best possible resolution to your case.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to see what the school or the other side will do. Begin building your case now. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.