Sexual misconduct is among the most serious charges a college student can face. No, your school can't send you to jail. The potential repercussions are just as serious, though. If you're found responsible, the minimum penalty will almost certainly be suspension. More likely, your school will expel you.
Given what's at stake, you might expect that your school would do everything it can to make sure it gets things right and justice is done. The fact is, Respondents (the accused) in such cases aren't entitled to the same rights as defendants in actual court cases. Judicial procedures can be difficult to navigate and are frequently set up to favor Complainants (accusers). Responsibility (guilt) isn't determined based on the principle “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” but a lesser standard, “Preponderance of Evidence.” Cases aren't decided by seasoned judges but by professors with little or no judicial training.
There is good news, though. In most cases, you do have the right to an advisor, and this advisor can be an attorney. If you're facing charges, don't take them lightly. Contact an attorney-advisor immediately, someone who knows the law and who has experience representing student clients.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
Most people associate the federal law, Title IX, with college sports. That's because it has been used in the past to require schools to provide the same athletic opportunities for women as they do for men. That can sometimes make for splashy headlines.
Title IX's broader purpose, though, is to prohibit sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. As a result, it's actually more often used as a tool for investigating and adjudicating instances of sexual misconduct, from simple verbal harassment to stalking, dating violence, and rape.
The law mandates a specific set of procedures all schools must follow in such cases. Here's a brief look at how the sexual misconduct policy at the University of Alaska, Anchorage interprets those procedures:
- All complaints originate with the school's designated Title IX Coordinator. Anyone may make a complaint, but only the Coordinator may officially open an investigation.
- Any time they open an investigation, the Coordinator must provide the Respondent with written notice of the allegations. This notice should include the name of the Complainant and details of the allegation.
- Under Title IX, Respondents have a number of important rights, including
- The right to be presumed “Not Responsible” (innocent)
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to review all evidence
- The right to submit evidence and suggest witnesses
- The right to advance notice of all meetings and hearings
- The incident is investigated by an Investigator who is appointed by the Coordinator. This person separately interviews both sides in the case, collects any physical evidence, and interviews potential witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator completes a written, unbiased summary of their findings. Both sides have ten days to review this document and suggest revisions before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Once the Title IX Coordinator receives the Investigative Report, they set a time and date for a live hearing and appoint a Decision Maker to preside.
- At the hearing itself, both sides have the opportunity to present their case, including making arguments, submitting evidence, and calling witnesses. In addition, both sides may cross-examine each other and any witnesses against them.
- Advisors actually ask the questions, but questions must be submitted to the presiding Decision Maker before they are asked.
- Once the hearing is complete, the Decision Maker makes a determination as to the Respondent's responsibility. In making this determination, they use what's known as the “Preponderance of Evidence” legal standard. According to this standard, they must find the Respondent responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that the Respondent committed an offense.
- Both sides have the right to appeal the Decision Maker's findings. Appeals must be in writing and must be filed within five days of notification of the hearing outcome. Appeals may only be filed for
- New evidence in the case
- Procedural irregularities
- Bias on the part of a Title IX official
Non-Title IX Cases at the University of Alaska, Anchorage
Not every case at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, is a Title IX case. The reason for this is that the law itself changed significantly in 2020. Among other changes, the government limited schools' jurisdictional authority and narrowed the definitions of “discrimination” and “harassment.” Like many other schools, UAA instituted new policies under the Student Code of Conduct designed to deal with incidents no longer covered under Title IX.
Because these so-called “non-Title IX cases” aren't subject to federal law, UAA is not required to follow the same processes or afford Respondents the same due process rights.
Some aspects of the two processes are the same. For instance, Respondents are entitled to an advisor in either case. In addition, Respondents are entitled to a full, formal investigation.
However, there are some significant differences in how UAA deals non-Title IX cases:
- While Respondents may have an advisor accompany them to meetings, advisors may not participate directly in the proceedings.
- Cases aren't dealt with by Title IX officials but by a Student Conduct Administrator.
- There are no hearings. Instead, the Student Conduct Administrator conducts an investigation. As part of this investigation, both parties have the right to submit evidence. However, they have no opportunity to cross-examine one another.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Whatever kind of sexual misconduct charges you may be facing, Title IX or non-Title IX, the rules and procedures are complex. Both processes afford you important rights, but you have to know how to claim those rights and how to use them to your benefit.
An attorney-advisor can help you make sense of the process and give you the best possible chance of winning your case.
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-advisor. That means he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct cases. Over the years, Joseph D. Lento 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.