You're a college student. You're smart; you're capable; you've had some real-world practice with adulting. You can probably handle most crises that life throws at you. You can't handle a sexual misconduct accusation, though—at least, not on your own.
It's no exaggeration to say that your entire future may be at stake. Suspension is usually the minimum penalty in these cases, and that could put your academic progress in jeopardy. The more likely penalty, though, is expulsion, and that could put your entire academic career in jeopardy. Expulsion often includes a transcript notation about the nature of your offense, and few schools are willing to take a chance on admitting someone with a record of sex offenses.
The good news is, you don't have to deal with this situation on your own. In most cases, you are entitled to choose an advisor to help you prepare your case, and that advisor can even be an attorney. In fact, if you want the very best chance of winning your case, you should look for a Title IX attorney: someone who knows the law and who has experience representing student clients.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
You might be wondering why you'd ever need an attorney as a student. After all, your school can't send you to prison, even for something as serious as sexual misconduct. Keep in mind, though, that sexual misconduct isn't just a matter of school policy. It's also a matter of federal law. Title IX prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment and requires colleges and universities to investigate all reasonable complaints of misconduct. Your school can't send you to prison, but it can turn your life upside down and ruin your academic future.
Worse, it's not easy to defend yourself. As you might expect, because Title IX is a federal law, the rules are complex, and the procedures difficult to navigate. Here's just a brief overview of how the University of Vermont implements Title IX.
- Like all other schools, UVM has a designated Title IX Coordinator. This individual oversees school policy regarding sexual misconduct and makes decisions about whether or not an allegation warrants investigation.
- If the Coordinator does open an investigation against you, they must provide you with notice of the charges. This notice should include the name of the Complainant as well as all relevant details about the accusation.
- You have several important rights under Title IX, including
- The right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty)
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to be treated equally to the Complainant in all matters
- 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
- The right to be investigated and adjudicated by non-biased individuals
- The Coordinator is also responsible for appointing an Investigator to the case. The investigator meets separately with both sides to gather information. In addition, they interview witnesses and collect any physical evidence.
- Once the investigation is complete, the Investigator writes an unbiased report of their findings. Both sides have ten days to review this document and suggest any revisions before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Having received the Investigative Report, the Coordinator must set a date and time for a live hearing and appoint an Adjudicator to preside over the case and determine the final outcome.
- At the hearing, both sides may make arguments, present evidence, and call witnesses. In addition, you may—through your advisors—cross-examine each other and any other witnesses against you.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Adjudicator must decide whether or not you are responsible for a violation. To do so, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Far less strict than “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” Preponderance of Evidence requires they find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- Either side in the case can appeal the outcome. However, you must file your appeal within five days of learning of that outcome. In addition, the grounds for appeal are strictly limited to procedural errors, the discovery of new evidence, or the revelation of bias on the part of a Title IX official.
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Not all sexual misconduct cases at the University of Vermont are Title IX cases. For example, misconduct that occurs off-campus is not typically covered under the law. Instead, the university refers to such incidents as “non-Title IX” cases and utilizes a separate set of procedures for investigation and adjudication.
Many aspects of these non-Title IX cases are the same as in Title IX cases. For instance, you're still entitled to an advisor, and this advisor can be an attorney. You have a right to be treated as Not Responsible until you've been proven Responsible. You're still judged according to the Preponderance of Evidence standard.
There are some important differences between the two processes, however. The most important of these is that you aren't entitled to present your case at a hearing. Instead, after collecting and then considering all the evidence, the Investigator makes a final determination as to your level of responsibility.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Whatever kind of misconduct charges you're facing, you're going to need help. Title IX gives you some important rights, but you have to know how to use them to your benefit. Non-Title IX cases give you fewer rights, which means you need a professional by your side to make sure the school is treating you fairly.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just any defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney. 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.
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.