Not all student campus code Title IX proceedings run concurrently with criminal proceedings, but in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct, investigations and proceedings at both the criminal and school level are quite common. There are significant differences in criminal proceedings vs. Washington DC campus Title IX proceedings. These distinctions can have a direct impact on your rights and your ability to defend yourself against any accusations of sexual misconduct.
Getting legal advice might be essential to a positive outcome when you are accused of sexual misconduct. A qualified lawyer could advise you about the substantial differences between criminal and Title IX investigations and proceedings—and about how they affect one another. Working with legal counsel from the outset of either case may be highly advisable to avoid negative consequences.
Some may assume that individuals accused of something as serious as sexual misconduct on campus are entitled to the same rights as if they had been charged with a crime. Criminal proceedings vs. Title IX proceedings on Washington DC campuses, however, are not the same.
While the U.S. Constitution guarantees individual rights and protections for criminal prosecutions, these rights do not carry over to Title IX proceedings. In other words, due process rights—which are designed to ensure that accused individuals receive a fair and impartial trial before a finding of guilt—are mostly absent from Title IX proceedings.
One of the most fundamental due process rights is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in the criminal justice system. This is a high standard of proof that requires evidence that can support no other conclusion, other than the accused is guilty of a crime. In Title IX proceedings, however, the applicable standard of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, which is extremely low. This means that all that is necessary for a finding of fault is evidence that it is more likely than not that the accused committed sexual misconduct.
Another well-established due process right is the right to confront those who are accusing individuals of wrongdoing. As a result, accused persons are entitled to review and receive all evidence against them, be present when their accusers testify at trial and cross-examine accusers and witnesses alike. In Title IX proceedings, none of these protections may exist, leaving the accused no means of asking questions of the complainant and an inability to review the evidence against them in some cases.
Another element of due process guaranteed by the Constitution is the right for accused persons to be represented by counsel during all criminal proceedings. In these proceedings, however, individuals whom others have accused of sexual misconduct rarely have the absolute right to be represented by counsel.
Title IX policies and procedures at colleges often allow the accused to have a “support person” present, who may or may not be a lawyer, but that person typically cannot advocate or speak on behalf of the student. At some schools, the Title IX office provides accused students with a Title IX “advisor.” This person can give accused persons information about the investigations and proceedings. They also can discuss different options for resolving the accusations.
However, Title IX advisors are still employees of the school, which gives them a vested interest in complying with school policies and procedures to avoid running afoul of the regulations in place. As a result, these advisors are not advocating on behalf of the accused, cannot give legal advice, and likely are not acting in the best interests of the accused. A system that does not permit the accused to have advocates on their behalf can be skewed in favor of the complainant. However, a seasoned attorney could work tirelessly to protect an accused individual’s rights.
Aside from the due process differences outlined above, other factors also may differ in criminal proceedings vs. Washington DC campus Title IX proceedings. Limited appeal rights, investigations by one investigator who may not have the requisite training and skills, and highly accelerated timelines all are pitfalls in the Title IX process that typically do not exist in the criminal justice system.
Defending yourself against allegations of sexual misconduct is not an easy task in either criminal or Title IX proceedings. The lack of due process and other constitutional protections in Title IX investigations and proceedings can feel overwhelming. Given the potentially harsh consequences of this outcome, getting legal advice can be crucial to protecting your future. A hardworking attorney could prove to be a valuable ally through each step, and could work to get you a favorable outcome under the circumstances.
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