Sexual misconduct is among the most serious charges any college student can face. Your school can't send you to jail, of course, but if you're found responsible, you may very well be expelled, and that can be just as life-altering. If your transcript should include a notation about the reason for your expulsion, you'll find it difficult, if not impossible, to find another school that will accept you. In essence, a sexual misconduct conviction can mean the end of your academic career.
Given what's at stake, you might expect schools to be especially careful about how they investigate and adjudicate allegations and to give respondents (the accused) every benefit of the doubt. The fact is, campus judicial processes are often weighted in favor of complainants (accusers). For example, the standard of guilt in such cases isn't “beyond a reasonable doubt” but rather based on whether judges believe it is “more likely than not” that you committed an offense.
There is some good news, though. The law gives you the right to choose an advisor to help you with your case, and this advisor can be an attorney. A qualified, experienced Title IX attorney can help you with all aspects of your defense, from gathering evidence and talking with investigators to preparing arguments and cross-examining witnesses at hearings. So, find out all you can about what you're up against. The better prepared you are, the better your chances. Then, make sure you hire the very best attorney you can. The charges are serious, and you can't afford to take them lightly.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Arkansas State University handles most of its sexual misconduct allegations using rules laid down by Title IX. That's a federal law banning sexual discrimination and harassment in US education programs. The law itself runs to some 550 pages, and that's before you take into consideration government memorandums that advise schools on how the law should be implemented. In addition to all those documents, ASU offers its own interpretation of the law in its policy on Title IX Grievance Procedures. That's a lot of material to try and digest. Here's a rough outline, though, of what you can expect if you're accused.
- ASU has a designated Title IX Coordinator who sets school policy on sexual discrimination and harassment. Anyone at the school may report you for misconduct. However, only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator may sign an official complaint against you.
- You are entitled to notice of any Title IX charges. This notice must include the name of the Complainant and details of the allegation.
- Title IX grants you several important due process rights, including
- The right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty)
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to review all evidence against you
- The right to present evidence and suggest witnesses
- The right to be investigated and adjudicated by non-biased individuals
- The right to advanced notice of all meetings and proceedings in the case
- At ASU, the Coordinator can appoint an Investigator to collect evidence, or they may conduct the investigation themselves. In either case, investigations must be completed within forty-five days.
- At the end of the investigative period, the Coordinator or Investigator completes a written report summarizing their findings. You have ten days in which to review this report and suggest a revision to any facts you might dispute.
- Next, the Coordinator sets a time and date for an official, live hearing.
- The hearing panel at ASU is composed of
- An ex-officio, non-voting Chair
- One student
- One faculty member
- One staff member
- The hearing provides an opportunity for you to present evidence proving your innocence and to call witnesses to testify on your behalf. In addition, you may cross-examine the Complainant and any witnesses against you. Of course, the Complainant has these same rights.
- Once both sides have made their cases, the panel determines your level of responsibility using a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Far less strict than “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” Preponderance of Evidence requires decision makers 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 hearing outcome should you lose. However, you must file your appeal within ten days of being notified of the outcome, and you may only file appeals for procedural irregularities, allegations of bias, or the discovery of new evidence. In addition, you should know that the Complainant also has the right to appeal the outcome, should you win.
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Not all sexual misconduct cases at ASU are Title IX cases. Changes to the law in 2020 redefined what qualifies as “discrimination” and “harassment” and placed limits on what kinds of offenses schools could investigate. For example, off-campus incidents are no longer classified as Title IX offenses. ASU didn't want such incidents to slip through the cracks, so it created new school policies to address them.
These so-called “non-Title IX” offenses are dealt with through the school's Student Code of Conduct, which means they are subject to that policy's investigation and adjudication procedures rather than Title IX guidelines. These procedures don't always provide students with the same due process rights they'd get under the law. For example,
- The school doesn't conduct a full investigation into Code of Conduct violations. All matters of evidence are dealt with through a hearing.
- Students are entitled to a hearing, but not necessarily a full hearing in front of a panel. Instead, a single administrator may decide the case outcome.
- While students are entitled to advisors, advisors may not speak during hearings unless directly addressed by the Hearing Officer or Chair.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
You probably have a good idea by this point why you might need an attorney to represent you in a sexual misconduct case. Simply put, your very future is at stake, and the judicial process can be, at best, difficult to navigate. When you go looking for an attorney, though, make sure you choose one who knows Title IX and who has experience representing students in such cases. They'll give you the best chance of successfully defending yourself.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just a 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. 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.