In situations involving allegations of sexual assault and harassment, there are two systems at play for many respondents: the school's Title IX adjudication system and the criminal justice system. Whether you're just facing your school's disciplinary process, have solely acquired criminal charges, or are dealing with both situations at the same time, you should understand the typical features of these processes.
Here's a comparison of several key aspects of your case as a respondent (the accused) within both systems.
Anyone who watches crime shows or somewhat understands law enforcement is aware of the “right to remain silent.” In the criminal justice system, police are obligated to inform you of this right before questioning you and arresting you, to warn that what you say in the heat of the moment can be used to incriminate you later. Respondents, however, don't have a guaranteed right against self-incrimination. If you choose to remain silent, your school will only hear the complainant's account of events. Consequently, students who are pinned with criminal charges while undergoing their school's adjudication process are faced with a unique challenge. Anything they say in a school proceeding can be used in court, but if they choose to remain silent, their voice won't be heard by the school. The assistance of a Title IX attorney advisor in these cases is useful to help you maneuver your school's adjudication process and the criminal justice system adequately.
Within the criminal justice system, there will always be an opportunity for cross-examination. It's one of the ways to check or discredit witness testimony. But in your school's disciplinary process, cross-examination isn't a guarantee and is in fact, strongly discouraged. As of now, Title IX guidelines dictate the complainant and respondent may not even be in the same room in many cases. There is no requirement that allows cross-examination. However, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is looking to change this stipulation in the coming years, which would give schools full discretion as to whether or not cross-examination will be allowed in live hearings.
The right to know the charges and evidence against you
During a criminal trial, it is your right to be well aware of the charges and evidence against you in accordance with federal or state law; whichever is applicable. This right gives defendants a fair chance to present a thorough defense. But in the world of higher education, things are different. Respondents aren't guaranteed a full presentation of evidence, the school may only give you a summary of evidence.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
A major part of being adequately prepared for your case entails seeking the help of an experienced attorney. A legal professional who defends criminal defense cases will know the ins and outs of the process and can get you into a diversion program that fits your needs. Attorney Joseph D. Lento brings a wealth of experience to the table, as he's successfully handled numerous cases just like yours. But most importantly, his familiarity with the overall process can be a source of comfort for you in one of the most stressful times of your life. For more information about his representation or how he can help you, contact him online or by phone today at 215-535-5353.