If your college or university has charged you with sexual misconduct, you're probably looking for answers. What will the investigation be like? Will you have a chance to defend yourself? What sort of punishment will you face if you're found responsible (guilty)? You'll find a lot of those answers here.
There's actually something you need more than answers, though: help. Sexual misconduct cases are difficult to navigate. Even seasoned lawyers can get lost if they aren't experts in Title IX. At the same time, the stakes could not be higher. The minimum sanction in these cases is usually suspension. More likely, your school will simply expel you if it decides you committed a violation.
So read on and find out as much as you can about just what you're facing. Then, contact the Law Offices of Joseph D. Lento to find out how we can help.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
As a starting point, you should know that ECPI University handles sexual misconduct cases through Title IX. Defending yourself, then, means finding out all you can about this law.
Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972. Its purpose was to prohibit sexual discrimination and harassment on university campuses. Originally, that meant holding schools themselves accountable for their behaviors. These days, though, the law is used primarily to deal with sexual misconduct allegations involving students. In keeping with this new focus, Title IX now also includes a set of strict guidelines that dictate how schools should investigate and adjudicate allegations.
Policies and Procedures
ECPI's Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Policy doesn't offer a lot of details about Title IX procedures. Instead, under “Investigatory and Disciplinary Procedures,” it says that you'll find out how the process works after you've been charged. That's not especially helpful.
As for the law itself, including the guidelines, Title IX runs to some 550 pages. You don't have time to pore through that much material. That's one of the reasons you need a Title IX attorney, someone who's studied the law. For now, though, here's a brief overview of what Title IX says.
- Your school has a designated Title IX Coordinator. Anyone may report you for a sexual misconduct violation, but only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator may sign an official complaint against you.
- If the Coordinator opens an investigation, they must provide you with a “Notice of the Charges.” This notice should identify the Complainant and provide details of the allegation. In addition, it should apprise you of your rights as a Respondent (accused). Among these, you have the right to:
- Be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty)
- Be treated as equal to the Complainant in all matters
- Select an advisor, who may be an attorney
- Be investigated and judged by non-biased officials
- Review all evidence against you
- Receive advanced notice of all meetings and proceedings in the case
- The Coordinator is also responsible for appointing an Investigator to the case. The Investigator typically begins by meeting separately with both sides. This is your chance to offer your version of events. As the investigation continues, the Investigator goes on to interview witnesses and collect any physical evidence.
- Once they've completed their work, the Investigator creates an unbiased summary of their findings. That is, they offer no findings as to your responsibility. That is ultimately decided at a hearing. Both sides in the case have the right to review the Investigative Report and suggest revisions before it is forwarded to the Coordinator.
- Upon receiving the Investigative Report, the Coordinator sets a date and time for a live hearing and selects one or more decision makers to oversee proceedings.
- At the hearing, you may make arguments, present evidence, and call witnesses. In addition, you may—through your advisor—cross-examine the Complainant and any other witnesses against you.
- At the conclusion of the hearing, decision-makers determine whether or not you are responsible for a violation. To do this, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” According to this standard, they must find you responsible if they are more than fifty percent convinced that you committed an offense. This is a far less strict standard than the one you may be more familiar with, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”
- Finally, either side in the case can appeal the hearing decision. However, there is a time limit on filing appeals, and grounds for appeal are typically 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
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct?
As a result of changes to the law in 2020, some schools now utilize a separate policy for what is known as “non-Title IX sexual misconduct.” The phrase refers primarily to incidents that occur off-campus.
Because these cases aren't subject to federal law, colleges and universities are free to utilize any procedures they choose to investigate them. They aren't, for instance, required to provide you with any particular due process rights, and, in fact, many don't.
At present, ECPI only investigates Title IX allegations. That's good news in the sense that you don't have to worry about which policy will be used in your case. In addition, you don't have to worry about any misconduct that isn't actually illegal. However, it suggests that when an incident doesn't fit current Title IX definitions for sexual misconduct, and is illegal, the school simply hands the case over to the police.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
It should be clear by this point: you can't handle a sexual misconduct case all on your own. It's too complex, and there's far too much at stake. Luckily, though, you don't have to. The law gives you the right to an advisor, and you should take full advantage of that right.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just any defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX attorney. That means he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct cases. He understands Title IX, its history, and its politics. 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.