I've been accused of sexual assault by my college. What is going to happen?

What is Title IX?

Title IX Defense Lawyer Demetra Mehta

Title IX Defense Lawyer Demetra Mehta

Title IX is a federal civil rights law sighed by President Richard Nixon in 1972 as part of a larger Education bill. At its core Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions when those instructions receive federal aid.

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. 20 U.S.C. § 1681

This had an enormous effect in opening up higher education to woman in all fields of study as well as establishing a place for woman sport at any school that receives any federal money from the elementary to university level. Before the passage of Title IX, many schools had quotas for woman in the areas they were allowed to study, the places they were allowed to study, and the subjects they were allowed to study (including complete bans from “male” areas such as medicine). Even if a woman gained access to a restricted program she might not have been allowed to stay if she got married or became pregnant. A woman in medical school in 1960 would often have a curfew placed on her and a requirement that she live in a particular dorm and only be allowed into certain residencies.

How does Title IX relate to sexual assault allegations?

Title IX also makes schools responsible for taking steps to prevent sex-based harassment, including sexual harassment, and for responding quickly and effectively to harassment when it occurs. What this means has varied since the act’s inception, however. With increasing pressure stemming from recent sex-abuse scandals, schools have stepped up their response to sex allegations. The previous Presidential Administration decided to give more guidance and wrote what has become to be known as the “Dear Colleague” letter which spelled out a school’s obligations once a claim of sexual violence has been made:

  • Once a school knows or reasonably should know of possible sexual violence, it must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.

  • If sexual violence has occurred, a school must take prompt and effective steps to end the sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects, whether or not the sexual violence is the subject of a criminal investigation.

  • A school must take steps to protect the complainant as necessary, including interim steps taken prior to the final outcome of the investigation such as issuing a no contact order.

  • A school must provide a grievance procedure for students to file complaints of sex discrimination, including complaints of sexual violence and sexual assault.

  • These procedures must include an equal opportunity for both parties to present witnesses and other evidence and the same appeal rights.

  • A school’s grievance procedures must use the preponderance of the evidence standard to resolve complaints of sex discrimination.

  • A school must notify both parties of the outcome of the complaint.

Due to the Obama administrations guidelines, many schools now provide very few protections for the accused. Once an accusation has been made, a school must investigate the claim. However, because the standard is currently one of “a preponderance of the evidence,” a school will sustain a claim (find the student responsible) if it is decided that “there is greater than fifty percent chance that the proposition is true.” Although schools will permit the accused to have an attorney present during the various stages of the investigation, many schools do not provide any sort of trial, hearing, or opportunity to cross-examine the accuser. Instead, an investigator retained by the school will often interview the parties, review any evidence, speak with some potential witnesses, and then make a finding as to whether a sexual assault has occurred. The investigator’s decision is usually not subject to challenge - meaning if the investigator has found that the accused is responsible, the school will not offer any type of appeal of the investigator’s factual findings.

The investigator’s decision may have permanent consequences for the accused. With very little due process, someone accused of sexual harassment or sexual violence could lose the right to their transcripts and the right to graduate. Even if the accused is permitted to graduate, the accused’s transcripts may contain an indicating that the accused was found responsible for an allegation of sexual assault.

Even worse, academic institutions use the natural inclination we all have to clear our names to endanger the accused with respect to potential criminal charges. Because a student who declines to make a statement or participate in this process will typically be found responsible, a student must choose between waiving his or her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and losing the education for which the student has paid in time and money. Thus, the students accused of sexual misconduct will often make statements to their school in an effort to “clear their name,” but these statements are fair game to any police agency that may wish to investigate the charges levied by the student’s accuser.

One would think, given the many horrific miscarriages of justice in similar situations, schools would know to be careful, but the schools and the Department of Education appear to have learned nothing:

·      Rolling Stone to Pay $1.65 Million to Fraternity Over Discredited Rape Story

·      College student gets 1 year in prison for false rape accusation

·      60 Minutes investigates: The Duke rape case

·      Exonerated of rape, Brian Banks now realizing NFL dream – in different capacity

How can a Title IX defense attorney help?

The current process gives very little thought to the rights of the accused. For that reason, anyone accused of sexual misconduct should not attempt to go it alone. Nor should they allow any kind of embarrassment they may feel to silence them. Someone accused in this sort of sexual misconduct must reach out to an attorney as quickly as possible. An attorney who has previously represented other defendants at one of these hearings can best guide the accused in how to defend themselves. The first days following an accusation are among the most important and if you have been informed you are under investigation, there are certain steps that must happen as quickly as possible. An experienced defense attorney may be able to help you with the following things:

  • Preparing to give a statement to the school’s Title IX Investigator

  • Reviewing and editing written submissions which may be required as part of the investigation

  • Conducting a thorough investigation into the allegations, including locating third-party witnesses and obtaining witness statements

  • Obtaining and preserving digital and social media evidence such as text messages, Facebook posts

  • Providing advice on how to avoid criminal charges while responding to the allegations

  • Helping you to understand the school’s procedures for the investigation and potential appeals and making sure that you understand all of your rights

Facing criminal charges or under investigation?

Goldstein Mehta LLC Criminal Defense Attorneys

Goldstein Mehta LLC Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you are facing criminal charges or under investigation by the police or campus authorities, we can help. We have successfully defended thousands of clients against criminal charges in courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We also have extensive experience defending clients against allegations of sexual misconduct in Title IX investigations. We have successfully obtained full acquittals and dismissals in cases involving charges such as Conspiracy, Aggravated Assault, Rape, and Attempted Murder. Our award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers offer a free criminal defense strategy session to any potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with an experienced and understanding defense attorney today.  

We can help with Title IX investigations at the following universities and more:

  • Bryn Mawr College

  • Cabrini University

  • Chestnut Hill College

  • Drexel University

  • Eastern University,

  • Holy Family University

  • La Salle University

  • Pierce College

  • Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM)

  • Rosemont College, St. Joseph's University

  • Temple University

  • Thomas Jefferson University

  • University Of Pennsylvania

  • University Of The Arts

  • University Of The Sciences

  • Villanova University

  • West Chester University

  • Widener University

Recent Criminal Defense Awards

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