Few university charges carry the weight of a sexual misconduct charge. You've seen the news stories; you know the score. No school can afford to look soft on offenders. That means they'll do anything they can to find you Responsible for (guilty of) an accusation, and they'll expel you if they can.
This situation may not be easy to wrap your head around. You're used to thinking of your school as being on your side. Your school doesn't just educate you. It feeds you. It gives you a place to live. Your school is your community. In a sexual misconduct case, though, it's not on your side. You need someone who is.
The law gives you the right to choose an advisor to help you defend yourself. In addition, it allows you to choose an attorney to serve in that role. Make sure you choose the right one. Everything is on the line, and you're facing a complicated legal battle. Only someone who knows the law and who has experience handling student conduct cases will do.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
If you've been accused of misconduct at Saint Leo University, someone has probably already mentioned Title IX to you. That's because most cases at the school are Title IX cases.
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination and harassment in all federally-funded education programs. That includes colleges and universities. Any time anyone connected to Saint Leo makes an allegation of misconduct, the law says the school must take it seriously and that it must follow a prescribed set of rules and guidelines in investigating and adjudicating the matter.
Those rules and guidelines run to some 550 pages. Saint Leo's own Title IX Policy condenses that information down to twenty-one pages. You should take the time, at some point, to review all of that material. In the meantime, though, here's a basic outline of what you need to know.
- Your school has a Title IX Coordinator who directs most aspects of sexual misconduct cases. You can expect any formal charges will originate with this official. In fact, only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator may sign a complaint against you.
- If you are being investigated, you are entitled to a Notice of the Charges. This notice must include the name of the Complainant as well as details about the allegation itself.
- Title IX gives you several other important rights as well. These include:
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to equal treatment to the Complainant in all matters
- The right to a presumption of Not Responsible (innocent) until proven Responsible
- The right to review all evidence in the case
- The right to investigators and decision-makers who are free of bias
- The right to advanced notification of all meetings and hearings
- Once they've issued a Notice of the Charges, the Coordinator appoints an Investigator to gather the facts of the case.
- The Investigator typically begins by meeting separately with both sides in the case. In addition, though, they interview potential witnesses and collect any physical evidence.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator is tasked with creating a written report summarizing their findings. You have ten days in which to review this report and suggest any revisions to information you dispute.
- The Investigative Report is ultimately forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator, who then sets a time and date for a live hearing. In addition, they select Hearing Officers to preside over the case and to render a final judgment as to your level of responsibility.
- The hearing is your chance to defend yourself by presenting evidence and calling witnesses to testify on your behalf. You also have the right to question the Complainant and any witnesses against you. Only advisors may ask these questions, however. If you do not have an advisor, the school must provide one, though they are under no obligation to furnish you with an attorney.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Officers deliberate as to whether or not you are Responsible. As part of this process, they employ a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” That standard requires they find you Responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- You have the right to Notice of the Outcome of the hearing, and further, you have the right to appeal that outcome. However, you have just five days in which to file this appeal, and the grounds are strictly limited to the following:
- The discovery of new evidence that has a direct bearing on the case outcome
- Procedural errors that may have affected the outcome
- Bias on the part of a Title IX official
Non-Title IX Cases
As of August 2020, off-campus incidents are no longer subject to Title IX enforcement. That does not mean, however, that your school will ignore such accusations. Like many schools, Saint Leo responded to the 2020 changes in the law by instituting its own university policy to deal with these “Non-Title IX” incidents. That policy has been incorporated into the school's Student Code of Conduct.
Keep in mind that because these allegations aren't subject to federal law, Saint Leo is free to use any procedures it wants to investigate such cases. In addition, it is under no obligation to provide the accused with any particular due process rights.
In fact, Saint Leo refers all Non-Title IX cases to a Conduct Meeting before a Conduct Officer. You do have the opportunity to provide factual information about what occurred, but you do not have the same rights as you do under a full Title IX hearing. Among other differences, Saint Leo does not allow you to choose an attorney as your advisor. Note that this does not mean you shouldn't have an attorney. In fact, in cases where a school denies you the right to counsel, an attorney can be crucial to monitoring the case and ensuring you're treated fairly. In addition, an attorney can help you draft documents, plot strategy, and prepare your presentation.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, defense attorney. He's not just a defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney. What does that mean? It means Joseph D. Lento built his career defending students just like you from sexual misconduct charges. He has studied the law and knows it inside and out. It means Joseph D. Lento knows how schools operate. He knows the tactics they often use, and he knows how to counter those tactics. Most importantly, though, it means 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.