Defending yourself from a sexual misconduct charge is an uphill battle. It requires perseverance and faith in yourself and your innocence. If you want to win your case, you'll need to find out as much as you can about exactly what you're facing. There's one other thing you'll need as well: help.
If you've been accused, the law entitles you to an advisor, and that advisor can be an attorney. Why does the law guarantee you this right? Why would a student need an attorney to deal with a campus violation?
First, you need an attorney because so much is at stake. If you're found responsible, the minimum penalty will likely be suspension. The more common penalty, though, is expulsion. If you're expelled for sexual misconduct, you'll find it difficult, if not impossible, to find another school willing to accept you. Your academic career could effectively be over.
Second, procedures in these cases can be extremely difficult to navigate. Investigations and hearings are governed by complex rules and, in most instances, subject to federal law. The law gives you a number of important rights, but you have to know how to use them. It's easy to get caught up in the process and make a mistake, especially when so much is on the line.
So, find out all you can about your school's judicial processes. You'll find a lot of useful information here. Then take the time to find a qualified, experienced Title IX attorney to make sure you get the very best possible resolution to your case. You'll find information on doing that here as well.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
First things first: what do sexual misconduct investigations and hearings look like?
Most cases are governed by Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination and harassment on all college and university campuses. In addition to this general prohibition, the law also includes a strict set of guidelines on exactly how schools must go about investigating and adjudicating allegations.
You can find a full description of Title IX procedures by reading through the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga Title IX Policy. Here's a rough outline of what you can expect.
- UTC has a designated Title IX Coordinator. Anyone at the school may report you if they suspect you've committed a sexually-based offense. However, only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator may sign a formal complaint against you.
- You're entitled to written notification of any charges filed against you. That notification should include the name of the Complainant as well as details about the allegation. In addition, it should apprise you of other important rights you have under the law, including the right to be presumed “Not Responsible” (not guilty), the right to review all evidence against you, and the right to be treated the same as the Complainant.
- Next, the Coordinator appoints an Investigator to conduct a full examination of the incident.
- At UTC, investigations may take up to sixty-five days. During this time, the Investigator meets with both sides in the case, collects any physical evidence, and interviews any potential witnesses.
- Once they've concluded the investigation, Investigators write a full, unbiased summary of their findings. You have the right to review this document and to suggest any revisions to information you disagree with.
- The final Investigative Report is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator. The Coordinator then sets a time and date for a live hearing. In addition, they appoint a Hearing Officer to oversee the proceedings.
- At the hearing, both sides have an opportunity to present their cases. You may make arguments, submit evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. In addition, you may cross-examine one another and any witnesses against you. You should note: all examinations must be conducted by advisors. If you do not have an advisor, the school must provide you with one, but it is under no obligation to furnish you with a lawyer.
- In addition to conducting the hearing, The Hearing Officer is tasked with determining whether or not you are Responsible for a violation. 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 likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- Finally, both sides have the right to appeal the hearing outcome. Appeals must be filed within five days of receiving a Notification of the Outcome. In addition, grounds for appeal are strictly limited to
- Procedural irregularity
- New evidence that has a bearing on the outcome
- Conflict of interest on the part of a Title IX official
Non-Title IX Cases
For many years, all sexual misconduct cases were Title IX cases. That's no longer true. The reason has to do with changes in the law instituted in 2020. Among these changes, the Trump administration determined that off-campus incidents would no longer be subject to Title IX procedures.
In response, many schools, including UTC, developed their own procedures for dealing with these so-called “Non-Title IX” allegations.
UTC chose to incorporate sexual misconduct into its Student Code of Conduct. This means that Non-Title IX allegations are subject to the same procedures as any other type of general disciplinary misconduct. There are a number of similarities between these procedures and Title IX procedures. For example, you are still entitled to a presumption of “Not Responsible”; you are still entitled to legal representation; you are still entitled to unbiased investigators and decision-makers.
There are key differences, though. For one thing, you aren't entitled to the same supportive measures the school provides to the Complainant. In addition, while your attorney can be on hand to advise you, they cannot participate directly in meetings and proceedings.
If you're facing Non-Title IX charges, your attorney will be able to advise you about other differences between the two processes.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney, but he's not just a defense attorney. He's what's known as a Title IX attorney. What does that mean? Joseph D. Lento built his career defending students just like you from sexual misconduct charges. He knows the law. 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 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, make sure you have the best legal representation you can find. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.