I have represented, successfully, students at Universities in the greater D.C. area who have been charged in internal campus disciplinary proceedings with sexual assault. In the cases I’ve handled, no prosecutor would take these cases – the evidence is simply not strong enough to support a conviction. Moreover, the complaining witnesses have an interest in not having anyone outside of the campus environment look into what happened.
The cases I’ve handled arise out of romantic relationships that are ending badly, or out of nights out drinking. There is no question that the couple had sex, the only issue is whether the sex was consensual.
What’s challenging about these cases is that schools are not obligated to provide the same rights to their students that people who are accused of a crime in a normal court have. Normally, the school writes a code of student conduct that defines how these procedures will work. Sometimes the school doesn’t follow its own procedures. This can seriously undermine a student’s ability to defend himself.
Recently, I gave a talk for lawyers on how to represent students accused of sexual assault on campus.
Here’s an ad for the lecture:
In the full talk, I explain how there are a number of federal laws that apply to these kinds of situations, and how lawyers who have students who have been accused of these kinds of campus charges can defend their clients.
This kind of situation can be a minefield, and schools are under tremendous pressure to take action when a sexual assault is reported. It can be very difficult for a lawyer to effectively help a client, since the rules are not familiar, and the players have a different set of background notions of what should happen.
And, in these cases, the stakes are incredibly high. A person falsely convicted of sexual assault on campus can have a notation on their transcript that can follow them for life. It can completely alter a student’s educational future, which, in turn, can change the course of a student’s life.