Don’t Speak to College Sexual Misconduct Officials Without an Attorney-Advisor

The High Stakes Context. Sexual misconduct accusations certainly frighten college and university students. Students whom a school accuses of college sexual misconduct have good reason to fear for their futures. Sexual misconduct findings can result in the accused student's restrictions, suspension, or expulsion. Along with those sanctions come the loss of the degree and education, job loss, and lost career opportunities, not to mention lost relationships and reputation.

The Instinct to Speak. In that context of high stakes and reasonable fears, students accused of sexual misconduct typically want to take swift action to assert their innocence and put the entire matter behind them. Accused students want to talk with school sexual misconduct officials, investigators, police–you name it–to tell their side of the story while advocating for their innocence. Many accused students not only rightly and firmly believe in their innocence but also believe in their ability to convince others of their innocence, by speaking early, often, and openly about the sexual misconduct charges. Many accused students don't appreciate that they should first consult a college sexual misconduct defense attorney about whether, when, to whom, and how to speak to effectively deny and defeat the charges.

Too Early. The first problem with that instinct and approach for an accused student to speak early and often is that sexual misconduct charges don't generally get dismissed simply because the accused student denies the charges, even vigorously. College and university sexual misconduct officials and investigators expect to hear denials. They also generally have another side, the accuser's side, of the story. The allegations may, in fact, be false. School officials may even not firmly believe the allegations. But until the investigation is complete and both sides have a fair hearing, it is usually too early to expect a sexual misconduct matter to simply disappear because of the accused student's denials.

Too Uninformed. Another problem with an accused student speaking to school sexual misconduct officials before consulting with a college sexual misconduct defense attorney is that the student isn't yet adequately informed about the charges and supporting evidence. Sexual misconduct charges are very serious charges, in many cases even implicating potential criminal charges along with the school administrative proceeding. When an accused student speaks without first learning more detail about the charges and evidence, the student fails to account for the school's evidence or lack of evidence. The accused student is just assuming that the school believes or soon will believe the facts to be more or less as the accused student knows them. When an accused student waits to meet with school sexual misconduct officials until after seeing the evidence against the student, as a college sexual misconduct defense attorney would generally and wisely insist, the accused student can more accurately, comprehensively, and concisely answer the charges.

Too Risky. Another reason why a student accused of sexual misconduct should consult with a college sexual misconduct defense attorney before meeting and speaking with school officials is that the student has an important Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The accused student must be careful not to admit to sexual misconduct that could also be charged as a crime if the student is to preserve and rely on that important privilege. Supreme Court case law confirms an accused student's right to remain silent in a school administrative proceeding, not just in court. Yet other Supreme Court case law permits an administrative body to infer guilt from the accused student's refusal to speak. The accused student thus often needs to speak, but only to just the right officials at just the right time while preserving the privilege to the extent possible. That strategy requires consulting first with college sexual misconduct defense counsel.

Too Broad. Accused students also have privacy rights under HIPAA, FERPA, and other laws that wise counsel can help the student preserve. An accused student may need to answer the sexual misconduct charges by meeting and speaking with school officials and investigators. But the student should, with representation by a college sexual misconduct defense attorney, be able to limit the school's inquiry to relevant, material, and non-privileged matters. A sexual misconduct charge can open the accused student's personal affairs and private life like a book. But a sexual misconduct charge shouldn't defame an accused student or destroy the student's privacy. With attorney representation, the accused student may be able to keep private the student's medical, employment, and academic records, financial affairs, social media accounts, and other confidential matters.

Too Often. One of the biggest problems, though, with an accused student speaking to school sexual misconduct officials and investigators, campus and local police, professors, classmates, and others about the sexual misconduct charges is that the student will have spoken far too often. Each time a witness, including a student accused of sexual misconduct, relates what happened, the witness relates the account slightly differently. It's not that the witness is lying. Instead, the witness is relating different details, perspectives, and recollections without intending any change in the account. Yet those small differences among multiple retellings of what happened can later look like the accused doesn't know, doesn't remember, has an unreliable memory, or has poor credibility and is indeed lying. The accused student should instead generally relate only one accurate, thoughtful, and comprehensive account to the school decision-maker who will decide the charges.

Nationwide Sexual Misconduct Defense Attorney Available. You have a highly qualified, skilled, and experienced sexual misconduct defense attorney available to you no matter where your college or university is located, and no matter your graduate or undergraduate level or degree program. Local attorneys, including criminal defense attorneys, tend to lack the knowledge and skill required for the successful defense of college and university sexual misconduct administrative proceedings. Don't retain an unqualified local attorney. Instead, retain premier sexual misconduct defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm. Attorney Lento has helped hundreds of students nationwide defend and defeat false and exaggerated sexual misconduct charges. Call 888.535.3686 or go online.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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