Few charges carry the weight of a sexual misconduct allegation. If your school should decide to level such a charge at you, you should never try to handle it by yourself. The minimum sanction in such cases is usually suspension, and more often, schools dismiss students who are found “responsible” (guilty).
Given how much is at stake, you might assume schools would take special care to make sure justice is done in such cases. In fact, the opposite is true. Colleges and universities tend to side with complainants (accusers), even if that means respondents (the accused) are denied some important due process rights. Outcomes are based on a judicial standard that's far less rigorous than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” And, you aren't necessarily entitled to have an attorney help you.
What do you do if you should find yourself accused? First, find out absolutely everything you can about how your school treats sexual misconduct allegations. The more you know, the better prepared you will be to defend yourself. In addition, though, you need to contact a Title IX attorney, someone who knows the law and understands how it applies to campus justice.
Title IX Cases
The University of New Hampshire deals with most sexual misconduct cases using a federal law known as Title IX. Passed in 1972, Title IX was intended to restrict sexual discrimination on college campuses. It offers a strict set of guidelines for how schools go about investigating and adjudicating allegations.
- All schools must have a designated Title IX Coordinator. This person receives all complaints and decides whether or not to instigate an investigation.
- You are entitled to notice if you are being investigated. The Coordinator must provide you with the name of your accuser and the details of the allegation. In addition, they must make you aware of your rights as a respondent. Among these, you have the right to be presumed “not responsible” until proven responsible; you have the right to an advisor, who may be an attorney; you have the right to review all evidence against you.
- The Coordinator appoints an Investigator. This person meets separately with both sides in the case. They also collect any physical evidence and interview relevant witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator completes a written report summarizing their findings. This report does not include a determination of responsibility. It is simply a record of the facts the Investigator has gathered. Both sides have a right to review this document and make revision suggestions before it is forwarded to the Coordinator.
- After receiving the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a date and time for a live hearing. They also appoint one or more Decision Makers to preside over the proceedings.
- At the hearing, the Investigative Report is entered into evidence, and the Investigator testifies. In addition, you can submit evidence and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You may also—through your advisor—cross-examine the Complainant and any witnesses against you. The Complainant has the same rights.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, the Decision Maker(s) determine whether or not you are responsible for an offense. To do this, they use a legal standard known as “preponderance of evidence.” According to this standard, they must find you “responsible” if they believe it is more than fifty percent likely you committed sexual misconduct.
- You have a right to appeal the Decision Makers' findings. However, you may only file such an appeal under very specific conditions, such as the discovery of new evidence, proof of procedural errors, or the demonstration of bias on the part of a Title IX official.
Non-Title IX Cases
For many years, all sexual misconduct cases were dealt with through Title IX. However, in 2020, the Trump administration changed the law, narrowing the definitions of “discrimination” and “harassment” and limiting schools' jurisdictional authority. This eliminated some types of sexual misconduct. Incidents that occurred at off-campus housing, for instance, were no longer covered under the law.
In response, many schools, including the University of New Hampshire, passed new policies designed to handle these so-called “non-Title IX” offenses.
It's important to note that the UNH procedures in non-Title IX cases are significantly different than those the school uses for Title IX cases, and respondents don't have the same due process rights.
- Unless you're facing suspension or expulsion, the Complainant actually gets to decide the outcome of the case after meeting with you. You are entitled to appeal the outcome to the Conduct Committee, but only under certain conditions:
- You discover new evidence
- You can prove that there wasn't enough evidence to justify the outcome
- You can prove some procedural mistake occurred
- You can demonstrate the proposed sanction is unreasonable
- The policy makes no mention of any formal investigation, suggesting the school does not require it in such cases.
- If the penalty is suspension or expulsion, you have the right to defend yourself at a hearing. However, the rules of this hearing are significantly different from the rules at a Title IX hearing. For instance, your entire presentation is limited to just ten minutes. In addition, you may have a student advisor, but this person may not be an attorney.
In short, while Title IX procedures don't afford you all the rights you would get in a court of law, they afford you more rights than you'll get under the school's non-Title IX policy.
Joseph D. Lento, Sexual Misconduct Attorney
If you've been charged with sexual misconduct, everything is at stake, and the deck is stacked against you. You need all the help you can get. You need an attorney, but not just any attorney. You need a Title IX attorney, someone who specializes in defending students from sexual misconduct charges.
Joseph D. Lento can provide that help. Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney. He's a fierce litigator with years of experience in the courtroom. He specializes, though, in student sexual misconduct cases. Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of students just like you defend themselves from all types of charges, from online harassment and stalking, to dating violence and rape. He knows the law; he knows how colleges and universities operate. Whatever your charges, big or small, Joseph D. Lento is committed to making sure your school respects your rights and that you get the very best possible resolution to your case.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. The school is already building its case. You should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.