Title IX - Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance

Your biggest fear is embarrassment or suspension, or a mark on your transcript.  I can handle this myself.  I do not need a lawyer.  This is just a school thing.  You are wrong.  It does not matter what the College or University Title IX office does, your biggest fear is going to prison after losing a criminal trial.  

Sexual misconduct encompasses numerous Title IX claims, including intimate partner or domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and exploitation (naked photos or video).  The biggest one is sexual assault or rape.  These claims have their own process, investigators and decision-makers.  This is not your drinking in the dorm probation or your DUI scolding.  The mark can be permanent.  It will delay your education.  You can get removed from campus and classes without a hearing.  And, lose or win, you can be prosecuted by the local district attorney with serious consequences.

The case comes quick.  Often within days or weeks.  Once the investigation starts, people that have been trained that only 2-8% falsely accuse  will investigate and judge you.  In a barely separate office, a victim advocate and therapist, sometimes the same person will praise the victim  for bravery, for courage, for stopping you before you do it to someone else.  These people all work together, train together, and eat lunch together.  They believe in what they are doing – protecting victims, most often women.  

You may get an email or a call.  Sometimes you will know the code violation from this notice, sometimes you will just find out that you have a few hours to remove yourself and any belongings you need immediately from campus.  You have been trespassed from the entire campus and cannot attend classes or take exams or go to study group or your or your dorm or your activities.  If you know the code violation, you likely will not learn the exact facts that support it nor even who is saying this happened.  

Presumption of innocence?  Nope, you do not get this presumption.  Burden of proof on the prosecutor?  Nope, they make you prove yourself innocent.  Confront and cross examine your accuser?  Nope.  Hearing with live witnesses?  Uh-uhh.  Lawyer to speak for you?  No such luck.  Impartial Judge?  That is laughable in many courts, but definitely not here.  A requirement to show proof beyond a reasonable doubt or at least by clear and convincing evidence?  Sorry, that is something we just cannot do.  A right to a full appeal?  Often no.  

The basic due process rights that we take as a given in criminal court are denied in these hearings.  They are not even hearings – there is never a time when all the people involved sit down and have a discussion of the case where you can see what happens.  This is modeled after the civil system and its you against the world.

In the face of this organized bias, you are expected to stand alone.  

Oh, and all the evidence they collect or fail to collect, is now available for the local cops and prosecutors to bring criminal charges if the victim is not satisfied with the results, or even if s/he is.  That statement you made where they did not write down the good stuff, but did take a bunch of words out of context to make you look bad.  That will be repeated to a jury.  Did your inexperienced lawyer conduct a recorded interview with an investigator and provide the transcript to the college or university?  Well, now what you thought were off the record, clarifying comments are fodder for the prosecutor emotion cannon that can blow you into prison.

So it’s a few months after the investigation started.  Maybe you were able to salvage the semester.  They find you responsible for sexual misconduct.  This is now stamped on your academic transcript.  Try getting an internship or transfer to another school now.  They suspend you until the accuser graduates or longer.  You have to take sex offender classes before you can return.  By then, all your friends will be long gone and your college experience is never the same, if you even get back.  

And then s/he sees you somewhere, or on Facebook or Instagram.  S/he thinks from the look on your face that you did not learn your lesson.  The police are called and the criminal process starts.  You face felony charges.  The worst part is that your friends and those that may have been witnesses to facts that can help you in court have moved on.  They do not remember.  You lost touch with them.  They don’t want to get involved.  That party seems like every other party. The statements that could have saved you are lost forever.  Will the cops care? Will the DA care?  Will the jury care?  Some or all of them believe that 2-8% false accusation rate.  With a number that low, you are almost certainly guilty.  So what if the case was poorly investigated 2 years ago. You still did it.

But you did not.  And your life is about to get even worse.

How do you avoid this fate?  You need a lawyer that fights Title IX cases and criminal cases.  You need an investigation that is aimed at winning the criminal trial, that can support a civil rights suit against the college or university and may also persuade the Title IX office, or at least university counsel, that you are innocent and they are violating your due process rights.

Together with my investigators, we get the evidence quickly and efficiently.  We challenge the violations of due process from the start.  We protect you from saying things that will hurt you.  We help you make the best decisions for yourself.

These cases happen quick and require near immediate action.  They are not cheap, but try hiring a lousy lawyer and see how much you end up paying.  The school often has attorneys that you can consult with for free, but they do not investigate or collect evidence.  They may not be able to represent you in criminal court.

It is not just rape claims.  Stalking and other intimate relation or gender based violence can get you suspended a year or more.  Stalking sounds like a creepy guy following you around, looking in your window at night and generally menacing you.  But, like many of the college or university definitions, it is so broadly defined that a couple of positive test messages sent after a request for no contact can get you suspended.  Taking intimate photos and sending them to even one other person can be exploitation, viewed as you attempting to slut shame.  

If you are an international student on a student visa, you may get deported for any suspension.  It is much harder to get another student visa if you have to explain “sexual misconduct” that is on your transcript.  In this realm, all conduct violating the code is sexual misconduct because it violates Title IX.

Call immediately – mention Title IX – make a list of possible witnesses and contact information – write a brief summary or what you remember or believe – stay away from the victim and any of his/her friends, no conact at all – stay sober.  

You can hope or wish your life had not changed, but it has.  I can help.

[1] False Allegations of Sexual Assault:  An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases, David Lisak, Lori Gardinier et al, Violence Against Women 16(12) 1318-1334 (2010) (https://icdv.idaho.gov/conference/handouts/False-Allegations.pdf) – defines falsely report as proven false, specifically “a case was classified as a false report if there was evidence that a thorough investigation was pursued and that the investigation had yielded evidence that the reported sexual assault had in fact not occurred. A thorough investigation would involve, potentially, multiple interviews of the alleged perpetrator, the victim, and other witnesses, and where applicable, the collection of other forensic evidence (e.g., medical records, security camera records). These numbers suggest the other 92-98% are honest and true claims.  Of the total, only 35.3% were considered solid enough to proceed, the remainder did not get referred for prosecution.  About to 60% did not have enough information, did not have a cooperating complainant, or were deemed not to be a sexual assault even if true.  The study reviews broadly others’ work, but only specifically studies 136 cases from one university.  No matter what you believe about true rate of false reports, it is definitely higher than 8% and could be higher than 50%.

[1] In Colorado, by statute, a person complaining of sexual assault is deemed a victim, even after a trial where the defendant wins a not guilty verdict from a jury of 12.

If you would like to schedule an initial consultation, contact a Colorado criminal defense attorney for issues regarding with your misdemeanor or felony. We represent clients in Boulder, Colorado and surrounding area. The Savela Law Firm, P.C. Give us a call at (720) 260-7392 or complete our inquiry form.