A charge of sexual misconduct can be daunting, there's no question about it. Rules and procedures in such cases can be complex and difficult to navigate. Punishments are typically severe. Suspension is almost always the minimum punishment. More often, schools expel students who are found responsible for a violation.
Before you let the facts overwhelm you, though, take a deep breath and let it out. You do have to take this situation seriously. That means learning all you can about what you're facing—how to interpret the charges, what an investigation will look like, and the procedures for defending yourself. You don't have to handle it all by yourself, though.
The law gives you the right to choose an advisor to help you prepare your case. It also specifies that this advisor can be an attorney. Take full advantage of this right. Hire a Title IX attorney. Only a Title IX attorney knows the law on student sexual misconduct, and only a Title IX attorney will have experience representing student clients in campus investigations and hearings.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct
You might be wondering why you would need an attorney as a student. Aren't you just dealing with school policies? Aren't you just facing hearing committees made up of school faculty?
Actually, sexual misconduct on college campuses is governed by federal law. Title IX, passed in 1972, prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment in all federally-funded educational programs. That includes most colleges and universities. In addition to its general prohibition, the law also sets forth a strict set of guidelines for how schools must go about investigating and adjudicating allegations. Those guidelines run to some 500 pages. You can see, then, why it might be important to have a lawyer on your side.
The University of Dayton has incorporated Title IX into its full policy on Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment. Here are the most important aspects of that policy.
- All Title IX cases are handled by the University of Dayton's Title IX Coordinator. Only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator can sign an official complaint against you.
- If you're being investigated for a Title IX violation, you're entitled to a Notice of the Charges. This notice should include the name of the Complainant as well as a description of the allegation.
- Title IX provides you with several other due process rights as well. Among these, you have the right to:
- Equal treatment to the Complainant in all matters
- An advisor, who may be an attorney
- A presumption of Not Responsible (innocent) until proven Responsible
- Review all evidence in the case
- Advanced notification of all meetings and hearings
- Investigators and decision-makers who are free of bias
- Once Notice of the Charge has been issued, the Title IX Coordinator assigns an Investigator to gather the facts of the case.
- As part of their duties, the Investigator meets with both sides in the case. In addition, they interview witnesses and collect any physical evidence.
- At the University of Dayton, investigations must be concluded in 60 days. At the end of this period, the Investigator submits a written, unbiased report of their findings. Both sides have ten days in which to review this document and suggest any necessary changes.
- The final draft of the Investigative Report is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator, who sets a time and date for a formal, live hearing. In addition, the Coordinator selects a Decision Maker who presides over the hearing itself.
- At the hearing, both sides may present their full cases. You may make arguments, offer evidence, and call witnesses. Title IX further allows you to cross-examine one another and any other witnesses against you. However, only advisors may conduct this cross-examination.
- The final element of the hearing is the determination as to whether or not you are Responsible for having committed an offense. In making their decision, the Decision Maker relies on a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” In simple terms, this standard requires they find you Responsible if they believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
- Finally, you have the right to an official Notice of the Outcome of the hearing, and you further have the right to appeal this outcome. Note: grounds for appeal are strictly limited to:
- The discovery of new evidence that has a direct bearing on the case outcome
- Procedural errors that may have affected the outcome
- Bias on the part of a Title IX official
Non-Title IX Cases?
Not every accusation of sexual misconduct at every school is subject to a Title IX investigation. Since 2020, off-campus incidents have been excluded from coverage under the law. While they are not subject to Title IX, however, many schools, including the University of Dayton, have created new policies and procedures that do address these so-called “Non-Title IX” offenses.
The beginning of a non-Title IX case at the University of Dayton resembles Title IX cases. That is, both sides are offered support services; respondents are treated as “Not Responsible” until proven “Responsible”; both sides are entitled to an advisor, who may be an attorney.
However, non-Title IX cases use two investigators rather than one. In addition, respondents do not have the right to defend themselves at a hearing. Instead, the Investigative Report offers an opinion as to the Respondent's level of responsibility. Then, the two investigators are joined by a third to form a “Resolution Team.” This team reviews the Investigative Report and makes a final decision as to the Respondent's responsibility. That decision is based on a majority opinion of the three team members.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-licensed, fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just a defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney. What does that mean? It means Joseph D. Lento built his career defending students just like you from sexual misconduct charges. He has studied the law and knows it inside and out. It means Joseph D. Lento knows how schools operate. He knows the tactics they often use, and he knows how to counter those tactics. Most importantly, though, it means 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, don't wait to see what the school or the other side will do. Begin building your case now. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.