Whether you’re a college student who recently received a call or letter from a representative of your university about an alleged sexual assault or a concerned parent, it is imperative to take the accusations seriously and take immediate legal action to protect your rights, reputation, and future.
According to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, sexual assault that occurs on a college campus is considered sex discrimination. Since Title IX violations can lead to the U.S. Department of Education cutting funding or suing universities, higher education institutions are more interested in protecting themselves, rather than learning the truth.
In May 2014, The U.S. Department of Education released a list of over 50 universities with open Title IX sexual violence investigations. Institutions of have been named, including Harvard and Dartmouth College, reformed their sexual assault policies with the survivor’s well-being in mind, despite the negative impact it could have on students accused of such crimes.
Campus discipline procedures typically act with the presumption of guilty until proven innocent. An accused student burdened to prove his/her innocence and has no right to a public hearing, to an impartial jury or judge, to evidence review, and to an attorney.
All it takes is for a college panel to believe the accuser’s story based on the preponderance of evidence, which is a lower burden of proof compared to proving a person committed a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Even with no direct evidence of guilt, a student could be expelled from school, evicted from campus housing, and receive permanent damage to their transcript.
If you have been accused of campus sexual assault, the following are several steps to prevent further legal damage:
- Hire a lawyer – Although you cannot obtain court-appointed legal representation, you can still seek legal guidance from a private criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer can assess your case, find any holes in the accuser’s story, and figure out all available legal options to protect your rights and freedom.
- Do not speak to university representatives or law enforcement officials – Although you may believe that speaking to the authorities enables you to prove “your side of the story,” the truth is that anything you say can and will be used against you.
- Do not attempt to communicate with your accuser – Although you may have good intentions, trying to talk to your accuser may look like you are attempting to silence him/her or tamper with the case—in the eyes of the police.
- Build a defense strategy – You and your attorney can work together to develop a timeline, starting with the day you met the accuser and ending when you have been accused of the crime. Provide your lawyer with as much evidence as possible, such as text messages, emails, videos, and photos to support your claim.
When it comes to criminal penalties in New York, having sexual intercourse without the other person’s consent is considered third-degree rape, which is punishable by a maximum four-year prison sentence. Having a criminal conviction on your record can lead severely damage your educational and employment pursuits.
If you have been accused of campus sexual assault in Rochester, contact King Lawtoday at (585) 270-8882 and schedule a free consultation.