No one expects to be accused of sexual misconduct, but the fact is that such accusations are made every day. Often, they can be the product of simple misunderstanding. Those kinds of misunderstandings are particularly common on college campuses, where young men and women are still just learning how to live in close proximity to one another.
If you're a student, and you're facing such an accusation, you're likely feeling a complex range of emotions including shock, fear, even anger. You may be wondering about how you're going to deal with the situation while still attending classes. Perhaps you're concerned about the accusation becoming public knowledge.
First, take a deep breath. You can get through this situation.
Next, think the situation through rationally. The University of South Carolina allows you to choose an advisor to help defend you against sexual misconduct allegations, and that advisor can be an attorney. So once you've absorbed the situation, the next thing to do is pick up the phone, and call an attorney who is experienced in these types of cases.
Do you really need an attorney?
Can you fight a charge of sexual misconduct by yourself? Yes, but it's foolish to take on the school on your own. Sexual misconduct is a serious allegation, and it can difficult to fight, especially if you're a student.
- The school is not on your side. Most colleges and universities are supportive of their students, right up until the point when those students are accused of committing a serious offense. Then their primary interest becomes protecting themselves from complaints that they didn't do enough to investigate and prosecute the accused. Don't believe that a school will be even-handed in its investigation or that it's working in your best interests because you're a student.
- School judicial policies are quite different from those that govern a court of law. Schools aren't bound to respect your due process rights, even when you're charged with something as serious as sexual misconduct. You are not necessarily entitled to a hearing, for example. Your guilt doesn't have to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the school feels you are a threat, you can be suspended before the investigation has even begun.
- University sexual misconduct policies can be unusually complicated. The University of South Carolina's page on sexual misconduct lists five different sets of policies that govern how it responds to sexual misconduct allegations. That list is only the beginning. In a sidebar on the right side of the page, USC notes that sexual misconduct is primarily covered by the South Carolina Department of Education's policy EOP 1.06. That policy only took effect in August of 2020, and it's far from settled. If you visit the EOP 1.06 link, you'll discover that the previous policy EOP 1.05 continues to lurk in the shadows, as a sort of backup to EOP 1.06. If EOP 1.06 doesn't address your particular situation, the allegation might be dealt with under EOP 1.02. That is unless your situation has to do with sexual assault, in which case EOP 1.08 applies. If it involves relationship violence, it will be covered by EOP 1.09. Confused? That's not surprising.
We'll say it again: The first thing you should do if you find yourself accused of sexual misconduct is to contact an experienced attorney.
The USC Process for Dealing with Sexual Misconduct
In practice, how do most sexual misconduct cases play out at the University of South Carolina? As the mix of policies above suggests, the answer can depend on a number of factors.
Sexual misconduct complaints at the University of South Carolina originate in the office of the Title IX coordinator. Once a complaint has been made, the coordinator then makes a determination about whether to proceed with an investigation and, if so, what specific policy the violation falls under. After that, the procedures differ depending on the policy.
Most cases are prosecuted under Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that encourages schools to investigate instances of sexual discrimination and harassment. Current Title IX guidelines guarantee you a hearing once the initial investigation is complete. At that hearing, your attorney is allowed to speak on your behalf and to cross-examine any witnesses directly. Again, keep in mind that these rules were only put in place recently, by the Trump administration. The Biden administration is already hard at work on repealing them.
If your case doesn't fit the Title IX parameters, the school deals with it under state regulations. As with Title IX cases, the Title IX coordinator appoints an investigator to collect evidence and interview witnesses. That investigator has the sole responsibility for resolving the case. In other words, you do not have a right to a hearing. You do not have a right to question any witnesses. One single individual controls your fate.
In either case, if it finds you guilty, the University of South Carolina can impose a broad range of disciplinary actions up to and including suspension or expulsion. You can appeal the school's findings, but only on narrow grounds such as new evidence or a clear demonstration of bias.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento Can Help
All is not lost. You can fight an allegation of sexual misconduct, but you should do it with someone by your side who knows the law and who has your best interests at heart. Joseph D. Lento specializes in university sexual misconduct cases and has unparalleled experience protecting clients just like you. He knows Title IX law, but he also knows the ins and outs of university policy. Joseph D. Lento is sympathetic. He understands what you're going through. He will fight for your rights and make sure you get the very best possible outcome to your case.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct at the University of South Carolina, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.