If you're facing a charge of sexual misconduct from your university—or even if you just think you might be charged—it's important you begin preparing your defense now. You need to find out how investigations and hearings work at your school. You need to know what standard of evidence your school will use to determine whether or not you are responsible for a violation. You need to know what kinds of sanctions the school might apply if you are found responsible.
Don't try to handle your case alone, though. Even if you have the answers to all these questions, you still need help. Keep in mind: your accuser will almost certainly have an attorney, and the school may have one as well. These cases are serious business, and you need a professional by your side if you're going to have any hope of winning.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
At the University of the Cumberlands, most sexual misconduct cases are Title IX cases. Title IX, passed by Congress in 1972, prohibits sexual discrimination and harassment at all publicly funded colleges and universities. In other words, if you've been accused, you're not just subject to UC policy; you're subject to federal law.
The law doesn't just prohibit sexual discrimination and harassment. It also sets forth a rigid set of guidelines for how schools must investigate and adjudicate allegations.
- UC has a designated Title IX Coordinator. This individual sets school policy on discrimination and harassment and decides whether or not accusations warrant an official investigation.
- If the Coordinator does open an investigation, you are entitled to notice of the charges against you. This notice must include the name of the Complainant and details of the allegation.
- Title IX guarantees you several important due process rights. These include
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty)
- The right to be investigated and adjudicated by non-biased individuals
- The right to review all evidence against you
- The right to present evidence and suggest witnesses
- The right to advanced notice of all meetings and proceedings in the case
- Next, the Coordinator appoints an Investigator to gather evidence. This person meets separately with both sides. They also interview witnesses and collect any physical evidence such as pictures, texts, clothing, and dorm logs.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator completes a non-biased report on their findings. Both sides have ten days to review this document and suggest any revisions they may feel are needed.
- Once the Coordinator receives the Investigative Report, they set a time and date for an official, live hearing. In addition, they appoint one or more Decision Makers to preside over the proceedings.
- At the hearing, you may make arguments, present evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. The Complaint may do the same. In addition, you may both—through your advisors—cross-examine each other and any other witnesses against you.
- At the end of the trial, Decision Makers deliberate as to your “responsibility.” In doing so, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” According to this standard, they must find you responsible if they believe it is more than fifty percent likely you committed an offense. Notice that this is a much lower standard than the one we hear about most often, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.” In fact, attorneys generally refer to this standard as the “Fifty Percent Plus a Feather” standard.
- Should you lose your case, you do have the right to appeal the outcome. You have just seven days in which to file this appeal, though, and you may only file an appeal on very specific grounds, including bias on the part of a Title IX official, other procedural errors, or the discovery of new evidence. Note that the Complainant also has the right to appeal the outcome.
It is worth knowing that not all sexual misconduct cases are Title IX cases. Recent changes to the law have limited what qualifies as an offense under the law. For example, off-campus incidents are no longer covered. Most schools, including the University of the Cumberlands, have instituted new school policies to deal with these so-called “non-Title IX” cases. However, because these cases aren't covered under the law, schools are under no obligation to follow any particular procedures or to provide students with any particular due process rights.
Luckily, the University of the Cumberlands has chosen to treat both kinds of offenses under the same set of procedures. No matter what kind of charges you're facing, the process is the same.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
If you haven't realized it already, you need to know: your academic future is at stake. The minimum sanction in sexual misconduct cases is usually suspension. More likely, your school will expel you if it finds you responsible for an offense. Often, expulsion includes a notation on your transcript about the precise nature of your offense. Try finding another school that will accept you if you've been dismissed for sexual misconduct. And we all know what the statistics say about the disadvantages non-college educated employees face. You simply can't afford to take this kind of risk.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just a defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney advisor. That means he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct cases. Joseph D. Lento has dedicated his career to fighting for student rights. Over the years, he has handled hundreds of cases for students just like you, making sure they're treated fairly and that they get the justice they deserve. Your school won't make it easy to defend yourself; make sure you have someone on your side who knows the law and can use it to your benefit.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. The school is already preparing its case. You should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.