Colleges and universities take sexual misconduct accusations extremely seriously, as well they should. If you're enrolled at a school and paying them good money for an education, they should do everything they can to protect you from harm.
Protection, though, isn't just about your physical well-being. You deserve to be treated fairly. If you've been accused of sexual misconduct, for example, your school should treat you as innocent until proven guilty. You should be afforded due process rights like the right to question any witnesses against you. You should have every opportunity to defend yourself.
Unfortunately, some schools are so zealous in protecting potential victims that they forget their obligations to the accused.
How do you protect yourself? What can you do to try and level the playing field if you find yourself charged? Start by learning all you can about what you're facing. Investigate your school's disciplinary procedures so you'll know how to use them effectively. Research terms like “consent” and “preponderance of evidence.” The more you know, the better your chances.
Then, find an advisor who can help defend you. Because you need to know what you're up against, but you also need to know that you can't handle it alone.
Title IX Cases
Campus judicial systems are notoriously difficult to navigate. Any time you put physics professors and freshman comp teaching assistants in charge of justice, things are going to get complicated. Most sexual misconduct cases aren't just subject to university policy, though. They're also governed by federal law, and that's a whole other level of red tape.
Title IX, passed in 1972, prohibited sexual discrimination at all public educational institutions. In the roughly fifty years since a whole host of rules and regulations have grown up around how the law is enforced. They are far from simple.
- First, your school is required to have a Title IX Coordinator. This person receives all misconduct complaints and decides whether or not to investigate them.
- If the school does open an investigation, you are entitled to written notice of that investigation. As part of this notice, the school must provide details about the allegation as well as the name of the complainant. In addition, this notice should explain your rights, including the right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) and the right to an advisor. According to Title IX, this advisor can be an attorney.
- The Coordinator appoints an Investigator. This person will interview you and the complainant separately. They'll gather any physical evidence and talk with relevant witnesses.
- Once the investigation is complete, the Investigator completes a written report summarizing their findings. Both sides have ten days to review this document and suggest revisions. It is then forwarded to the Coordinator.
- Once the Coordinator receives the investigative report, they set a date and time for a formal hearing. They'll also select a Hearing Officer to hear the case.
- The hearing must be held live. However, either side may request accommodations such as closed-circuit video or privacy screens.
- The hearing offers you a chance to defend yourself. You can introduce evidence and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. In addition, you may—through your advisor—question the complainant and any witnesses against you. You should know, however, that the complainant will have the opportunity to do the same.
- Once both sides have presented their cases, the Hearing Officer deliberates. In doing so, they use a legal standard known as “preponderance of evidence.” Less strict than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” this standard requires that they find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- Both you and the complaint have a limited right to appeal the Hearing Officer's findings if you can demonstrate:
- There is new evidence in the case that would affect the outcome
- The outcome doesn't fit the facts in the case
- The sanction is disproportionate to the offense
- The case involved procedural errors
- One or more Title IX officials were unfairly biased against you
Non-Title IX Cases
Title IX cases were complicated enough, but in 2020 things got worse. That's when the Trump administration passed a whole new set of guidelines limiting schools' jurisdictional authority. Among other things, Title IX no longer applied to any incidents that occurred off-campus. Most colleges and universities didn't take these changes well. Some actually sued the US government. Most took a less aggressive approach, though. They re-wrote their own policies to deal with any misconduct Title IX didn't cover.
The problem with what happened is that, since these non-Title IX cases aren't subject to federal law, schools don't have to respect your due process rights. Some do. Others don't.
Luckily, CSU, East Bay, like all CSU schools, treats both kinds of cases roughly the same. For example, whether you're investigated under Title IX or non-Title IX procedures, you'll have the right to be presumed innocent, and you have the right to an advisor. The school will conduct a thorough investigation, and in most instances, you'll have the chance to defend yourself at a formal hearing.
However, if the proposed sanction is less than suspension or expulsion, the process is a little different. Most significantly, you aren't entitled to a hearing. Instead, at the end of the investigation, the Investigator will decide whether or not you are responsible and assign any penalties.
What Can Joseph D. Lento Do for You?
Cal State, East Bay lists several possible sanctions for sexual misconduct, including warnings, removal from housing, and probation. The reality is, if the school finds you responsible, the minimum penalty will probably be suspension. In most cases, you'll be expelled. If you're expelled, you won't be able to apply to other Cal State schools. In fact, a transcript notation about your offense could keep you from enrolling anywhere. Your academic career could effectively be over.
By now, then, you should have a sense of why you need professional help with your case. Simply put, everything's at stake, and the deck is stacked against you.
Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in sexual misconduct cases. That means he's skilled at crafting legal arguments and fighting for his clients' rights, but he's also experienced in dealing with university faculty and administrators. He's comfortable in a courtroom; he's comfortable in a seminar room.
Joseph D. Lento built his career defending students just like you from every kind of accusation. He's ready to help you prove your innocence.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't try to handle it yourself. Contact the professionals at the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.