Colleges and Universities look into student conduct violations, as well as other violations such as sexual assault (under a law called Title IX). These allegations may seem like they are less serious than a criminal investigation, but oftentimes they can be even more damaging. The first thing to do if you have been called in for a hearing is to consider finding an experienced attorney to assist you with the process of fighting the accusation. The actual process of a student conduct hearing oftentimes does not afford the same rights as a criminal hearing, and this can be very damaging. Oftentimes (especially in sexual assault cases) the accused will be presumed guilty, and will need to prove innocence.  In many schools, your personal representative cannot even speak and must guide you through the hearing. Some schools will tell you the hearing is “informal,” when in reality it is very serious and a final decision will be made there. Aside from speaking with a qualified attorney, you can look up the process in your University’s Student Code of Conduct, Florida State University and Florida A&M are two examples right here in Tallahassee.
Accusations and Investigations into Sexual Assault are handled by Colleges and Universities according to Title IX, which guarantee all individuals to receive equal access to higher education, regardless of gender. This requires public institutions to adequately address instances of sexual harassment or assault, in order to guarantee the alleged victims are allowed full access to their education. Student conduct hearings also cover things like cheating, or drinking underage, which are not Title IX issues. If you are accused of sexual assault or any other offenses by your school, the FIRST thing you need to do is find a lawyer. The process is geared towards punishing bad actions, not always finding the truth, and there is no system to regulate or require fair treatment of the accused. Criminal law has a way of naturally being spread, even state specific laws, and people have a general understanding of their rights. Misinformation in the casual spread of criminal procedure is far worse in the world of university Title IX complaints, as each school as a completely different procedure and set of rules. These rules can even change every year at the state legislature, or individual school’s desire.
If you have been accused by your school of wrongdoing, it may seem similar to a criminal accusation, but it could be even more damaging. Expulsion may seem less harsh than incarceration, but for an innocent party who will be presumed guilty in a Title IX investigation, expulsion is a very real possibility, whereas legal punishment is very unlikely. Make sure to protect yourself. Our attorneys handle these cases regularly and are prepared to protect your rights. If you have been accused or are worried an accusation may arise, call our office any time at 850/681-7777 to set a free consultation.
 Ashe Schow, What to do If You’re Falsely Accused of Campus Sexual Assault, Wᴀsʜɪɴɢᴛᴏɴ Exᴀᴍɪɴᴇʀ, Feb. 19, 2016, http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/what-to-do-if-youre-falsely-accused-of-campus-sexual-assault/article/2583661.
 Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 – 1688.
 Id. at § 1681(a) (“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance”).
 Oғғɪᴄᴇ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Assɪsᴛᴀɴᴛ Sᴇᴄʀᴇᴛᴀʀʏ, Dear Colleague Letter (Apr. 4, 2011), https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201104.html (“Sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. In order to assist recipients, which include school districts, colleges, and universities (hereinafter “schools” or “recipients”) in meeting these obligations, this letter1 explains that the requirements of Title IX pertaining to sexual harassment also cover sexual violence, and lays out the specific Title IX requirements applicable to sexual violence.2 Sexual violence, as that term is used in this letter, refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol.”)
 Schow, supra note 1.
Article Written By:
J Brent Marshall, Florida State University College of Law and Pumphrey Law, Law Clerk
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.
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