The term “burden of proof” refers to the responsibility of proving an incident did or did not occur. In the context of a sexual misconduct case being charged in criminal court, the state prosecutor has the burden of proving that the accused committed the crime in question. That is not the case at colleges and universities.
Criminal allegations must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in most criminal cases, but those administering justice don't always hold themselves to this standard. In a relatively high-profile sexual misconduct criminal case reported on by USA Today, a Houston detective recently demonstrated this failure. Although the U.S. Constitution requires those charged to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the detective admitted to believing the victims' claims of sexual assault against Cleveland Brown quarterback, Deshaun Watson - potentially from the outset of the investigation. If Mr. Watson is ultimately convicted, he may have grounds for appeal of the conviction based on potential prosecutorial bias.
If, on the other hand, Mr. Watson's case was playing out in a university setting, he probably wouldn't have this same recourse. When allegations of sexual misconduct are made in a college or university setting, the administrators don't have to adhere to the same burden of proof required by the U.S. Constitution in criminal cases.
The Difference Between School Disciplinary Proceedings and Criminal Courts
If you or someone you love is accused of sexual misconduct at your university, it's imperative you understand the difference between a criminal trial in the court system and a disciplinary proceeding conducted at your school. Colleges administer discipline through proceedings that more resemble administrative adjudications, and the burden of proof often isn't as strict as it would be in a criminal court. This means those accused shouldn't rely on an “innocent until proven guilty” rule.
Many mistakenly think the stakes are not as high when they get in trouble with their school versus when they get in trouble with state or federal prosecutors. While it's true your school won't impose jail time for student misconduct, they can expel you from classes or deny you your degree. At the end of the day, the implications of school discipline can be just as costly and long-lasting as criminal convictions.
In addition to the degree of proof required, schools are also more likely to put the burden of proving innocence on the student rather than putting the burden of proving guilt on the investigatory body. The best way to protect your interests at your college or university after a sexual misconduct claim is made against you is by retaining a legal professional to help you with your sexual misconduct defense.
Hire a Student Misconduct Defense Attorney-Advisor and Expert Defense Team
Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Student Defense Team helped numerous students throughout the country defend themselves against student misconduct accusations, including sexual misconduct. To learn how Attorney Lento and his team can help you get your collegiate career back on track, call 888-535-3686, or contact us online today.