Sexual misconduct is among the most serious charges any university student can face. Your school can't send you to prison, but it can suspend you or expel you, both likely outcomes in such cases. Often, these sanctions include a transcript notation about the nature of your offense. That can prevent you from enrolling in other educational programs and may even hinder your ability to get a good job.
The good news is that in most cases, you're entitled to select an advisor, someone to help you prepare your defense. Even better, that advisor can be an attorney. You'll find a lot of useful information below that should help you make sense of your situation. You should know, however, that there's no substitute for a qualified, experienced Title IX lawyer.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Tarleton State University treats most of its sexual misconduct cases as Title IX cases. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination and harassment in all federally-funded education programs. In addition to that general prohibition, it also lays out a strict set of guidelines for how schools should investigate and adjudicate allegations. You can find out more about how TSU interprets those guidelines in the school's policy on Civil Rights Compliance (Policy 08.01.01). Here are the highlights, though.
- Like all schools, TSU is required to have a Title IX Coordinator. This individual sets school policy on sexual discrimination and oversees all Title IX investigations and hearings.
- If you're under investigation for a Title IX offense, you are entitled to a “Notice of the Charges.” This notice should include the name of the Complainant (alleged victim) and details of the allegation itself.
- Title IX guarantees you a number of additional rights. Among these, you have the right to:
- Select an advisor, who may be an attorney
- Be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty)
- Be treated as equal to the Complainant in all matters
- Review all evidence against you
- Receive advanced notice of all meetings and proceedings in the case
- Be investigated and judged by non-biased officials
- The Coordinator is also responsible for selecting an Investigator to compile evidence in the case.
- Typically, the Investigator first meets separately with both sides. Then, they gather any physical evidence and interview any witnesses.
- Investigations at TSU must be completed within 30 days. At the end of that period, the Investigator submits a written report detailing their findings.
- Both sides have ten days in which to review the Investigative Report and suggest any revisions to that report.
- The finalized report is forwarded to the Coordinator, who then sets a date and time for a live hearing. In addition, the Coordinator selects members of a hearing panel to conduct the proceedings.
- At the hearing itself, both sides may make arguments, present evidence, and call witnesses. In addition, you may—through your advisors—cross-examine each other and any witnesses against you.
- Once the hearing is concluded, members of the panel decide, based on a majority vote, whether or not you are responsible for a Title IX violation. To do this, they employ a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” In simple terms, this standard requires them to find you responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- Finally, you have the right to appeal the panel's decision. Appeals must be filed within five days of notification of the outcome. In addition, the grounds for appeal are limited to:
- Procedural irregularities that affected the case outcome
- New evidence that could have affected the case outcome
- Bias on the part of a Title IX official that could have affected the case outcome.
- Inappropriate sanctions
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Tarleton State University follows Title IX guidelines for most of its sexual misconduct cases but not all. As a result of changes to the law in 2020, off-campus incidents are no longer covered under Title IX. Instead, TSU has created a separate set of procedures under the Student Code of Conduct to deal with these “non-Title IX” allegations
Keep in mind that non-Title IX cases aren't subject to federal law. That means TSU is under no obligation to follow any particular set of procedures or to provide you with any particular due process rights. In fact, your rights under the Student Code of Conduct are severely limited.
- The Code of Conduct offers no specific provision for a formal investigation
- You don't have the right to a hearing. Instead, your case will be heard by a Student Conduct Administrator as part of a Student Conduct Conference
- During this conference, you have no rights as far as presenting evidence, calling witnesses, or cross-examining the Complainant
- You may select an advisor, but this advisor may not be an attorney
- Your advisor may not participate directly in the Conduct Conference
- The single administrator has sole authority for deciding whether or not you committed a violation
You may not have the right to an attorney in these cases, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't hire one. Not only can a lawyer help you prepare your case, but they can monitor what happens to ensure the school doesn't mistreat you.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
It should be clear at this point why you need an attorney to help you with your sexual misconduct case. Whether you're facing a Title IX or non-Title IX accusation, defending yourself will be an uphill battle, and it's no exaggeration to say that your entire future is at stake. You don't want just any attorney, though: you need someone on your side who knows the law and has experience handling student cases.
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. That means he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct cases. He understands Title IX, its history, and its politics, but he's also experienced at dealing with non-Title IX cases. Joseph D. Lento has dedicated his career to fighting for student rights. Over the years, he 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.