Accused of sexual misconduct on a college campus? Here’s what to do next
The morning after you were intimate with another college student, you receive a text from her asserting that you crossed the line – even though you thought you were given clear and voluntary consent. How you choose to respond can change the course of your life forever.
When faced with sexual assault allegations, you should never speak with anyone – especially not your accuser, her friends, or her family – without first consulting with a lawyer. Andrew T. Miltenberg, a veteran attorney specializing in due process for those accused of campus sexual assault, emphasizes the importance of speaking with a lawyer early on. Getting an attorney involved right from the start may help avoid life-altering penalties that can arise from student disciplinary procedures.
Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, federally-funded universities are required to respond to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence accusations or face investigation by the U.S. Department of Education. “If a student feels that someone sexually assaulted or harassed them,” Miltenberg explains, “they can make a complaint to the police or go to the Title IX office to open an investigation.”
In most cases, a single Title IX investigator employed by the school will conduct an investigation and present his or her findings at a disciplinary hearing. Since campus sexual assault cases are treated much differently than those adjudicated by the criminal justice system, the accused can be found guilty of sexual assault based on a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, meaning evidence that’s more likely true than not. That’s different from criminal trials, which require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to support a guilty verdict.
Because of this lower evidentiary standard – combined with institutional concerns of lost funding – people on campuses “are seeing that they can use Title IX to deal with boyfriends that they’ve had breakups with, that weren’t nice to them, and that have cheated on them,” Miltenberg says.
If you’ve been maliciously accused of sexual assault, you need to start protecting yourself right away by building a defense.
In cases of campus sexual assault, physical evidence may be limited, and it can be difficult to identify witnesses, if any exist at all. To secure a guilty verdict, all the claimant has to do is convince the hearing panel, which usually consists of university officials and faculty members, that his or her version is more likely than yours. For this reason alone, you should never proceed without help from a lawyer.
After being accused of a sexual assault, do not speak to anyone – including the police, investigators, and possible witnesses – without your attorney present. Take the time to find every email, text message, and other modes of communication relevant to the accusation. You’ll also want to document your experience and interactions with the claimant in as much detail as possible, including the dates of each event. An experienced campus sexual assault lawyer will help you gather evidence, review the school’s policies regarding sexual misconduct, and serve as a supporter during the hearing.
Because one misstep can result in an expulsion and have far-reaching consequences, you need a well-practiced attorney by your side who knows exactly how to navigate complex university disciplinary hearings. Miltenberg has successfully defended more than 150 students during disciplinary proceedings at a wide range of educational institutions, from small liberal arts colleges to large public universities.
If you’ve been wrongly accused of sexual harassment or sexual violence on a college campus, contact Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP today at 212-736-4500 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential consultation.