A sexual misconduct allegation is literally the most serious charge any college or university student can face. If you're found responsible, your life will change in fundamental ways. The minimum penalty in these cases is suspension. The far more likely penalty is expulsion. Expulsion isn't just expulsion. It also includes a transcript notation about the exact nature of your offense. That can keep you from enrolling anywhere else. In simple terms, your academic career could be over, and we all know how non-college graduates fair in today's job market.
The process of defending yourself is not an easy one. Campus judicial procedures are dictated by federal law. They are complex and difficult to navigate.
There is some good news: the law also provides you with several important due process rights, like the right to be presumed “Not Responsible” (innocent) and the right to be treated equal to the Complainant (alleged victim) in all matters. One of the most important of these rights is the right to an advisor, and this advisor can be—and should be—a Title IX attorney. While you do have rights when you've been accused of a sexually-based offense, you have to know how to use them correctly, and only a Title IX attorney, someone who has spent years studying the law, will be able to guide you successfully through the process.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
Most sexual misconduct cases at the New Jersey Institute of Technology are handled through the federal government's Title IX statute. As a result, preparing your defense begins with understanding what this statute says.
Title IX prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. In addition, it provides a set of rigid guidelines for how schools should investigate and adjudicate allegations.
You can find out more about how NJIT interprets these guidelines in the school's own Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy. Here's a brief outline, though, of what you can expect.
- NJIT has a designated Title IX Coordinator who handles all matters relating to the law. For example, the Coordinator deals with all accusations and makes decisions about which ones warrant a full investigation.
- If the Coordinator signs an official complaint against you, they must provide you with a written Notice of the Charges. This notice should include the name of the Complainant as well as important details about the allegation itself. In addition, it should apprise you of your other important rights under the law, such as the right to review all evidence in the case and the right to advance notice of all meetings and proceedings.
- The Coordinator's next responsibility is to appoint an Investigator to collect evidence in the case.
- Investigators typically begin by interviewing the two sides in the case. In addition, however, they look for physical evidence and solicit witness testimony.
- Investigations at NJIT can take up to 60 days. At the end of this period, the Investigator is tasked with creating an unbiased summary of their findings. Both sides then have ten days to review this document and suggest any revisions.
- The final Investigative Report is ultimately forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator. The Coordinator's next job is to set a time and date for a live hearing and to appoint a Hearing Officer to oversee the next phase of the case.
- Hearings start with an examination of the Investigative Report. After this, both sides present their cases. You may make arguments, submit evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. In addition, you may—through your advisor—cross-examine the Complainant and any other witnesses against you. Of course, the Complainant will have the opportunity to do the same.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Officer renders their decision as to your level of responsibility. In making this decision, they use a judicial standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Similar to “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” but much less strict, “Preponderance of Evidence” requires they find you Responsible if they are more than half convinced you committed an offense.
- You have the right to appeal the Hearing Officer's decision. However, you must do so within five days of receiving the Notice of the Outcome. In addition, grounds for appeal are strictly limited to procedural irregularities, the discovery of new evidence, or a conflict of interest on the part of a Title IX official.
Non-Title IX Cases
Title IX underwent significant changes in 2020. Among these changes, off-campus and overseas incidents are no longer covered under the law. Many schools—including the New Jersey Institute of Technology—worried that these “non-Title IX” offenses might slip through the cracks, and most—including NJIT—created their own set of policies and procedures for handling such incidents.
NJIT is under no obligation to follow Title IX guidelines in these cases or to provide students with any particular due process rights since non-Title IX misconduct falls outside of the law.
Luckily, NJIT uses the same basic procedures in both types of cases. There is one important exception: in non-Title IX cases, you are not entitled to present your case at a live hearing. Instead, once the investigation is complete, a Hearing Officer reviews the Investigator's findings and renders a decision based on that material.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
By this point, you should already have some sense of why you need an attorney. Everything is at stake, and it's easy to get lost trying to find your way through the maze of Title IX requirements. You need someone with professional expertise in interpreting the law. You need a Title IX attorney.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney who is well-versed in Title IX cases. 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 knows how to counter 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.