When your university investigates assault or sexual harassment claims, it must do so according to 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), also known as Title IX.

While usually discussed regarding student-athletes, for colleges to receive federal funding, they must strictly comply with Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination on campus and affords certain protections on the basis of sex and gender. For this reason, school administrators thoroughly investigate and harshly penalize sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. But sometimes, innocent people are punished in the process.

Fortunately, you still have the right to be represented by an attorney during the process, much like if you were accused of a crime. If you and your lawyer can refute the accusations, or challenge the alleged evidence, you may be able to avoid expulsion or suspension. But it’s not an easy process.

You don’t benefit from the same rights and procedural protections that you do in the criminal justice system. This is all the more reason to have a skilled advocate—who is familiar with the rules–in your corner.

If you’ve been accused of sexual misconduct on a Pennsylvania or New Jersey college campus, call Fienman Defense at (215) 839-9529. We will assess the situation during a free consultation and explain your next steps forward.

The College Disciplinary Process

A Title IX proceeding is not a criminal prosecution. If you are found to have committed a violation, you will face disciplinary action from your school, which in sexual misconduct cases is almost always suspension or expulsion. In some universities, there is even a specialized panel for dealing with these cases, which is separate from the disciplinary committee that would deal with less serious matters like cheating or plagiarism.

Your school could lose its federal funding if someone accuses them of not taking an accusation of sexual harassment or rape seriously. So you can expect your school to thoroughly investigate if you are accused and punish if you are found responsible.

Even if you know you are innocent, you should hire a lawyer to coordinate your defense because many students have been punished for sexual misconduct they did not actually commit.

If found responsible in a Title IX proceeding, you will not necessarily face criminal penalties. But, the school investigation may lead to a criminal investigation and prosecution. If you go on the record and make incriminating or contradictory statements, these could potentially be used against you in a criminal proceeding. And if the alleged victim can prove damages, they may hold you liable in civil court too.

Your Rights in a Title IX Proceeding

Despite the serious consequences of Title IX proceedings, the accused does not have the same rights that criminal defendants have in court. Under federal law, Title IX proceedings must obey the following:

  • The school must have policies in place to quickly act on sexual misconduct allegations, with the goal of reaching a disposition within 60 days
  • There must be designated school staff to deal with sexual violence
  • The evidence must show that it is “more likely than not” that the accused committed the offense, also known as the preponderance of the evidence standard
  • The accused and the accuser must have the right to similar measures, such as presenting evidence, having an advisor, and the ability to appeal
  • The school must protect accusers from retaliation.

One of the more controversial of these requirements is the standard for proving the accusations. In a criminal proceeding, a prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in Title IX, the standard is much lower.

Under the preponderance of the evidence standard in Title IX cases, if it is only more likely than not that you are guilty, the disciplinary board could rule against you.

You Legal Counsel Can Make a Difference

With such a low standard, it’s imperative that you choose an experienced Title IX lawyer during the disciplinary process. Although they may not always be able to speak on your behalf, your lawyer can help you by:

  • Counseling you about the process
  • Formulating and helping you implement a coherent defense strategy
  • Preparing you for interviews and hearings
  • Ensuring that your school follows procedures
  • Negotiating a settlement
  • Preparing for defending against potential criminal charges or civil litigation

Contact Fienman Defense

At Fienman Defense, our goal is to give you the best chances of succeeding in the Title IX process and to protect you from criminal and civil liability. If you’ve been accused of sexual misconduct on a college campus, your future hangs in the balance.

With an extensive background in various disciplinary hearings throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, do yourself a favor and seek the assistance of an experienced college disciplinary process lawyer. Call Fienman Defense today at (215) 839-9529 for a free and confidential consultation.

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