5 Steps You Need to Take if Accused of Sexual Assault on Campus

Title IX cases are those that involve student complaints of sexual misconduct, harassment, or stalking against other students. Learning you’ve been accused of sexual misconduct is alarming and stressful. If not managed correctly, a sexual misconduct complaint can quickly result in suspension or expulsion and leave a lasting impact on your educational career. It is imperative to seek immediate guidance from an experienced Title IX criminal defense lawyer before speaking with school officials, submitting written documents, or turning over any evidence to the school.

But what exactly is Title IX? According to the United States Department of Justice, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act is a federal law that states: “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

A simple breakdown of the above statement consists of schools being required to investigate all sexual misconduct or assault cases involving students or staff independently from other separate criminal charges. Throughout the country, schools must establish their individual structural system for investigating any claims of sexual misconduct to include witness interviews, suspect interrogation, and disciplinary hearings.

What Is Sexual Misconduct?

The term sexual misconduct is a blanket term for various acts of sexual violence. Sexual misconduct is violence that uses power, control, and/or intimidation to harm another and occurs when consent is absent. Consent is a clear and free “yes” statement and cannot be provided if the victim is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sexual misconduct occurrences can include, but are not limited to:

One Call, That’s All

After receiving a written notice that you’re being accused of sexual misconduct, the first thing you should do is call an attorney who routinely handles Title IX cases. The school will advise you that you don’t need a lawyer for this process, but you can get a lawyer if you want one. But, it is essential to remember that the school will not advocate for you, and they will probably not advise you to hire anyone. (Most schools offer law students the opportunity to practice on these cases and may provide you with the assistance of a law student to defend you). A law student is not a licensed attorney. You have the absolute right to hire a licensed attorney, and you should get one on board as soon as possible.

After calling a lawyer, you should meet with him/her as soon as possible to understand the complaint made against you and possible defenses. At the meeting, you should follow your attorney’s advice. You should not speak about the case with anyone unless attorney-client privileged.

Note: You may also be charged with a criminal offense as a result of the complaint, at which point, it becomes even more critical to have a licensed attorney at your side.

Keep Your Documents

The school provides you with a copy of the complaint made against you and the school’s policies. You should keep these documents and give them to your lawyer for his/her review.

Schools throughout the country are required to post guidelines for students and staff to reference that outline what school policies have been allegedly violated, the punishment policy for such violations, and how the investigation and disciplinary processes will be conducted. It’s essential to provide your lawyer with your school’s sexual misconduct policies so your lawyer can advise you appropriately. This will help you understand what’s to come and describe what rights you have as the disciplinary process advances. If you don’t know where to find your school’s sexual misconduct policies, the documents can usually be found by searching “Title IX Proceedings” or “Sexual Misconduct Policies.”

Evidence

You may have evidence on your cell phone or other physical evidence. You may have been in a relationship with the person who is making the complaint. You may have many communications over a long period of time. It is essential to save these items in a safe and private location. Then, when you see your lawyer, you must let him/her know what you have and, if possible, provide copies.

It’s recommended that you jot down a few notes about what you can remember about the alleged incident, as this will keep the chain of events fresh and easily accessible for your attorney. It’s also helpful to consider any witnesses who may have the ability to support your response to the allegations. However, do not discuss the case with people you believe to be possible witnesses. You should note down the names of people who may be witnesses and give that information to your attorney.

Some schools place restrictions on what respondents can discuss with potential witnesses, meaning it’s vital that you do not cripple your defense by speaking to possible witnesses. Any documentation and defense evidence shouldn’t be shared with the school or anyone else until your attorney has reviewed the evidence in full.

Examples of evidence and documentation you may want to collect can include:

  • Witnesses who were present before, during, and after the alleged event
  • Photos
  • Text messages
  • Social media posts
  • Video camera surveillance footage
  • Police reports
  • Medical reports
  • Emails
  • Written correspondence
  • Notes of meeting details

 

Hire a Title IX Attorney

Besides documenting all pertinent information regarding the sexual misconduct allegations, you must seek guidance from a criminal defense attorney experienced in Title IX and sexual misconduct proceedings. Cases such as these can often be confusing, challenging to navigate, and can result in suspension or expulsion if not approached correctly. An experienced Title IX attorney will review your case, compile evidence, and ensure you’re represented adequately in the school’s disciplinary proceedings and court, if applicable. You must take advantage of your ability to attend any school meetings or proceedings with your attorney. Your attorney can help you respond to the allegations and can conduct a meaningful hearing if your case proceeds in that manner.

Do Not Go to Meetings With the School Without Your Lawyer

You will be provided meeting dates to attend during the disciplinary process. You should bring your attorney to the meetings to obtain as much information as possible about the complaint in an objective fashion. Your attorney may also consider recording any meetings with the school you partake in, so you can quickly transcribe any communications as they may be useful later in the disciplinary hearing. However, it’s vital that you determine your school’s state recording laws as some states require you to get permission, and without, you could be charged with an additional criminal offense. Your attorney will be familiar with your state’s recording laws as they will be a “one- or two-party consent recording state,” meaning you can record without the school’s knowledge or permission, or you must obtain permission from a school official before the meeting. Either way, your attorney can and should be with you at all meetings with the school, and you should not speak unless your attorney advises you to do so.

Investigation

The school will conduct an investigation into the matter. Their investigation is often limited and one-sided. Therefore, it is essential to discuss a private investigation with your lawyer. Ms. Campoli utilizes a private investigator in most Title IX cases so that her clients can bring to light evidence or witnesses that the school may overlook.

Seek Emotional Support

Feeling anxious and overwhelmed during this process is normal. Having an experienced attorney to defend you will provide you with peace of mind and an outlet to discuss the case. But, there are also other resources that may be helpful such as family, friends, and therapists.

Unfortunately, a possibility exists for criminal investigation by your school’s state depending on the severity of the allegations. At times, the criminal proceedings will coincide with the school’s disciplinary proceedings, making it pertinent that you follow your attorney’s advice about remaining silent about the case and not turning over information or making statements to the school authorities unless instructed to do so. All evidence and communications will be turned over to the police for the criminal proceeding, and anything incriminating, condescending, or suspicious can be used against you in court.

Contact a Skilled Minneapolis Title IX Attorney Now

If you’re facing an accusation of sexual misconduct in your Minnesota school, experienced legal counsel is necessary. Lauren Campoli is well-versed in disciplinary hearings under Title IX and can help you achieve the best possible outcome with her expert defense tact, dedication, and track record of success. She has defended college and medical school students. Fill out our online questionnaire or reach the Law Office of Lauren Campoli at 612-810-0060 today. We’re looking forward to reviewing your case and helping you reach an outcome that will protect your future and the investment in your education.