I’VE BEEN ACCUSED AT MY SCHOOL OF A TITLE IX VIOLATION AND/OR CRIMINALLY CHARGED WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT, WHAT DO I DO?

You need a lawyer experienced with both Title IX violations and with criminal sexual assault investigations.  Accusations of sexual assault brought by your university or college will involve your school’s Title IX policies.  But since sexual assault is also a crime it is crucial you have a Title IX lawyer who also has experienced with criminal sexual assault cases.  Although  not all Title IX cases also involve criminal investigations, any Title IX defense must also involve protecting you against possible criminal charges, conviction, registration as a sex offender and jail.  Being found responsible for a Title IX violation can have devastating academic and professional consequences, including suspension, expulsion and difficulty with transfers to other schools, graduate school and employment.  Navigating through this minefield of dangers can be overwhelming and you will need the guidance of a lawyer experienced in Title IX, university discipline cases and criminal law.

Title IX violations and sexual assault charges may involve a wide range of conduct.  See our definitions sections below.

Things to keep in mind when accused or charged with sexual assault:

  • It is important that you seek proper representation as soon as possible. You must seek out legal counsel that has experience in criminal charges, Title IX accommodation procedures and experience in campus sexual assault allegations and university disciplinary proceedings.
  • It is imperative that you do not speak to anyone at your College or University without your lawyer being present.
  • Colleges and universities often take on multiple roles acting as judge, jury and investigators during sexual assault cases. This is why it is so important to have the right lawyer representing you.
  • Many rules and regulations are changing throughout colleges and universities and you may  find that the institutions themselves are not up-to-date on new laws and regulations.

Each school handles things a little differently, and sometimes the processes on paper may not match what actually happens to a student accused of sexual assault. More importantly, university discipline and student conduct code procedures processes differ greatly from criminal justice system procedures.. For these reasons, it is imperative you seek an attorney experiences with both systems to analyze and defend your particular case.

To better understand the differences between the Student Disciplinary process and the Criminal Justice process, here is a comparison of typical campus sexual assault procedures versus criminal justice procedures:

Student Disciplinary Process Criminal Justice Processes
You speak for and defend yourself. You have the right to an attorney who can cross-examine your accuser, witnesses and make arguments on your behalf.
Enforces college and university student conduct code and Title IX regulations which are written by school administrators.  Each school’s procedures must comport with federal laws such as Title IX. Enforces criminal laws passed by the state or federal legislatures.
Investigation is done by the school usually by untrained or minimally-trained faculty, administrators and students. Investigation is often done by police officers who usually specialize in sexual assault who bring the evidence to a prosecutor who decides whether to seek charges.  In more serious felony cases, the prosecutor must then seek indictments from a grand jury to charge a felony.  Any warrants for arrest must be approved by a judge who determines whether there is sufficient evidence to justify an arrest based on probable cause.
Prior to a hearing or resolution, colleges and universities may impose interim measures, including no-contact orders, removing an accused from campus housing, removal of the accused from athletic and extracurricular activities, removal from classes and even interim suspension. Prior to a trial or resolution, a judge may order the accused to stay away have no-contact with the complainant and impose bail or hold the accused in jail without bail/bond.
Standard of Proof:  To prove a campus sexual assault in violation of a student conduct code, colleges and universities utilize a preponderance of the evidence standard.  This standard of proof is much lower than the one used in criminal courts. Standard of Proof:  To prove a crime in court, the prosecution must prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  This is highest standard of proof in our court system.
Direct cross examination of the complainant by the accused or their lawyer/advisor is not permitted. Often, the accuser is not even permitted to be in the same room as the complainant. The accused has a constitutional right to cross examine the accuser and other witnesses..
Administrators  and/or panels made up of students and administrators decide the case.  Judges and lawyers play no role. A  judge or jury instructed and guided by a judge as well as arguments from defense lawyers and prosecutors decides the case.
Most colleges and universities allow appeals to a dean or other administrator on issues usually limited to new evidence or claims that the school’s procedures were not followed. You have an automatic right to appeal to higher courts on any issues identified by your lawyer.
Colleges and universities consider campus sexual assault investigations conducted under student conduct codes to be educational processes.  The schools often explicitly state that they do not consider the processes to be legal proceedings but ones that have an educational purpose. The criminal justice system is a highly regulated legal process overseen by judges and lawyers..
Punishments may include: suspension, expulsion with permanent notations on your transcript.  Being found responsible for a sexual misconduct violation may have very negative effects upon transfers to other schools, admission into graduate school, and future employment as many large companies may be reluctant to hire candidates with any sexual misconduct allegations in their background for fear of future liability. Punishments may include: probation, fines and/or jail.

WHAT IF I AM ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT BOTH BY MY COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY AS WELL AS THE POLICE AND PROSECUTORS?

Managing dual investigations -often referred to as parallel proceedings – is an extremely complex and difficult process.  You should make any decisions in such situations without the aid of experienced criminal defense attorneys who also can defend you against campus proceedings.  Both your academic/professional future and your liberty is at stake.

PROTECT YOUR FUTURE WITH STRONG REPRESENTATION

A college or university must investigate and resolve allegations of sexual assault under their federal law obligations.  Their processes and decisions will result in life changing consequences for you if you are found responsible of sexual misconduct. Even before a decision is reached, you could be forced out of your dorm or asked  to withdraw from classes.

If you are suspended or expelled, that information is branded on your permanent transcript giving prospective employers down the line strong reasons not to hire you. A simple internet search may often  bring up new articles and accusations of your guilt. If you have been accused of any act of sexual violence (including sexual assault, rape or sexual harassment) at a college or university you should take this very seriously. Immediately seek out a seasoned lawyer who knows the most recent rules and regulations regarding sexual assault charges, and who  has extensive previous experience working and supporting college students that have been charged with sexual assault.

It is no exaggeration to say that accusations of campus sexual assault jeopardize not only your academic future but your entire future career.

DEFINITIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT & OTHER FORMS OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT 

Sexual misconduct is a broad term that includes such terms as “rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual violence,” “sexual harassment,” “domestic violence,” “stalking,” and “intimate partner violence.”  University Title IX policies and student conduct codes may include all of these potential terms as potential violations.

Sexual violence is defined as any sexual act, or attempt of any sexual act, against an individual through coercion or manipulation, and includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse.  Sexual violence is committed through coercion and/or manipulation, in which one individual exerts his or her power and control over another individual, taking away one’s autonomy of decision making as it regards any sexual act.

Sexual harassment is an all-encompassing term, marked by harassment of an individual through unwanted sexual advances, offensive sexual statements, jokes, observations, requests for sexual favors, and/or sexual gestures, which creates a hostile environment for the victim.  At the heart of sexual harassment is the perpetrator’s manipulation of the victim, and the perpetrator’s ability to take the power of choice away from the victim.  This is how sexual harassment creates a hostile environment, making it difficult for the victim to pursue his or her education, career, and pursuit of happiness effectively.  Even the failure to respect another’s choices in gender identification and pronoun preference may result in allegations of sexual harassment and/or Title IX violations.

Sexual assault is defined as any sexual touching or contact that occurs without consent.  Rape is a form of sexual assault.  Sexual assault can occur through force, intimidation, manipulation, or because the victim cannot give consent.

Rape is defined as non-consensual sexual intercourse of penetration.

There are various types of rape.  Below are a few which most closely relate to situations found on college campuses:

  •         Stranger Rape
  •         Partner Rape
  •         Acquaintance Rape

Stranger Rape is what comes to mind most often when we think of rape, because it is the form that is most perpetuated by the media.  This type is where the victim and the assailant are complete strangers without any connection other than the assault itself.  We see this in movies and on television, and it is this form that usually makes national headlines.  However, although this seems widespread, you may be surprised to know that this is the least common form of rape.

More often than not, sexaul assault is committed through Partner Rape or Acquaintance Rape.

Partner rape can be complex and sometimes hard to understand, because it is often ‘assumed’ that individuals in any form of relationship have ‘consented’ to being in that relationship, often ‘love’ each other, or are happy to engage in sexual activity, all of the time.  However, sexual assault and rape can happen between people in a relationship.

Just because two people are dating does not mean that they must have sex (or any sexual contact) all of the time, or any of the time at all.  Dating does not equal sex.  Because of this, if a partner does not want to have sex, and is coerced or manipulated into have sex, even if the two parties are in a relationship, this constitutes rape.

What is acquaintance rape? Acquaintance rape is the most common form of rape, and does happen with alarming frequency on all college campuses.  This form is a non-consensual sexual act between people who know each other, outside of the sexual act itself.  This can include “date rape” – a sexual assault which occurs after a date between individuals.  More simply, the assailant and the victim just know each other. This happens everywhere throughout the country, at every university.

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