When a perceived instance of sexual assault is reported to a college, the school is obligated to quickly and actively take specific measures to ensure the safety of all parties involved. Of these precautions is the issuing of a “no contact order” and interim restrictions. The U.S. Department of Education has mandated that colleges must successfully keep the accuser separated from the accused.
Essentially, a no contact order is issued to impose binding restrictions on the accused on the basis that he or she has been accused. Whether or not a respondent is actually deemed guilty of the assault is irrelevant in these matters. Interim restriction actions are enforced to ensure that the accused does not physically come in contact with an accuser in an attempt to retaliate or serve as a threat to him or her. The decision to issue either interim in response to sexual assault allegations is made based solely on the discretion of a college or university. But with all that is at stake for higher education institutions (the loss of federal funding, national scrutiny, etc.) there's a good chance restrictions will be-be imposed.
Colleges typically don't restrain the whereabouts and interactions of the accuser for obvious reasons, so they impose these often crippling restrictions on the accused.These actions are understandable and justifiable when empathizing with a victim. It would be traumatic to live next door to a perpetrator in school dorms, especially when he or she has knowledge that an incident has been reported. Without a no contact order and interim restrictions, the possibility of retaliation is high, nonetheless.
However, when restrictions are severely imposed on the accused, it reinforces the notion that a respondent is presumed guilty before being given a chance to defend himself or herself. In cases when restrictions drastically interrupt the accused's ability to attend classes, live in their dorm, or even eat in the student dining hall, a respondent may feel as if they are being punished before they are provided with a fair hearing.
Use of No Contact Orders in Campus Sexual Assault Cases
While no contact orders can be effective as a deterrent for retaliation, they have also proven to be problematic and confusing if not enforced appropriately at schools. And unfortunately, schools do not have the best track record of approaching these matters correctly. In order to ensure that you don't violate a no-contact order, it's imperative that you making sure that Title IX resources do the following:
- Clearly state the potential consequences for violating an order
- Provide a notice of an order's limitations (which indicates that these orders are consistent with or the same magnitude as a protective order issued by a court and could be limited to on-campus interaction)
- Clearly state the time period for enforcement of an order
- Clearly state which parties in a complaint may obtain a no-contact order (institutions should also offer an option for you, as a respondent to be granted a no contact order if need be)
- Clarify whether an order will be automatically granted or if it will only be enforced upon request
Experienced Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of sexual assault, it may seem like odds are against you. Accused students often experience a strain in their relationships with friends, harsh treatment from school staff and are shunned by society. You don't have to go through this alone. An experienced attorney who has handled cases just like yours can help you salvage your reputation. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.