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Alcohol and Washington DC Title IX Investigations

College campuses are often full of alcohol use by underage students, which can lead to unanticipated and unwanted allegations. One of the potential—and most prevalent—effects of this is accusations of sexual misconduct that occurred while students were inebriated.

Since the implications of a guilty finding can be severe and even lead to criminal prosecution, anyone accused of such an offense should understand the interplay of alcohol and Washington DC Title IX investigations. Alcohol makes the issue of consent in these types of accusations more challenging to determine.

Due to a lesser standard of proof in student disciplinary proceedings, alcohol involvement in these allegations might even make it more likely for administrators to find someone guilty. However, a skilled and experienced attorney could help you protect your rights.

The Role of Alcohol in Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

The distinction between consensual sex and non-consensual sex can be very narrow when it comes to individuals who were drinking at the time of the encounter. Whether alcohol consumption made individuals unable to consent to sex is a crucial question for investigators to consider after they receive a complaint that triggers Title IX proceedings.

Alcohol affects individuals differently, which can make it difficult to determine if others were actually impaired at the time that the activity took place. In a true state of incapacitation, persons do not have the physical or mental ability to make rational decisions. Whether alcohol has incapacitated a party to this degree can be uncertain, as can understanding if the other party was aware of the extent of incapacitation of the accuser.

This determination becomes particularly difficult when both parties have been drinking, since it might be difficult for either to know whether the other person was too drunk to consent to sexual acts. In Washington DC alcohol and Title IX investigations, the level of impairment can be the determinative factor between exonerating students of accusations and subjecting them to academic penalties, such as suspension or expulsion.

Unfortunately, alcohol also clouds memories. This means that both of the parties involved—and perhaps any witnesses—often have trouble making an accurate determination of what happened. The result is often a “he said, she said” dispute that requires Title IX investigators to “believe” one party over the other.

How the Burden of Proof May Affect Incidents

The burden of proof in student disciplinary proceedings is much lower than that in criminal prosecutions. While criminal prosecutors must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” meaning there is no reasonable possibility of innocence, school administrators largely have adopted a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This standard requires only proof that it is “more likely than not,” or 51% likely that misconduct occurred.

In rare situations, schools may use a “clear and convincing” burden of proof, which is slightly higher than the preponderance of the evidence standard, but still is far short of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Regardless of which standard schools use, these standards are lenient, which by no means ensures that justice is served or that the findings are accurate.

When alcohol is involved, finding the truth becomes even more difficult in any investigation, whether in the context of criminal prosecution or Title IX. The presence of alcohol consumption on the part of the complainant may lead investigators to assume impairment that did not exist or that the other party should have been aware of the impairment of the complaining party. When the standard is as low as a preponderance of the evidence, it is very easy for investigators to automatically conclude in Title IX investigations that involve alcohol in Washington DC that sexual misconduct occurred.

Find Out More About DC Title IX Investigations and Alcohol

Alcohol and Washington DC Title IX investigations is a common subject, as many disputed sexual encounters arise out of parties, bars, and other events at which students have been drinking. The presence of alcohol further clouds the facts of the situation and may make it easier for investigators to find fault based on the low standard of proof in these cases.

This can put you at serious risk of severe academic consequences that may negatively affect your future. Rather than attempting to represent yourself in confusing, complicated, and stressful student disciplinary investigations and proceedings, getting legal advice and guidance may be wise. Legal representation can mean the difference between expulsion and the successful completion of your college degree.

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