College students accused of sexual misconduct often face uphill battle
Given the sexual assault policies in effect on many college campuses in Georgia, students need to be aware that even the mere accusation of sexual misconduct can instantly throw their lives into turmoil and put their diplomas at risk – even if the accusation is unfounded or ultimately proven false.
In fact, while many universities continue to strengthen their already tough sexual assault policies and procedures, some worry that the investigation/disciplinary process on some campuses has become so one-sided and unfair that those accused have little chance of defending themselves against allegations of sexual misconduct. In some cases, accused individuals have lost even the most basic of due process rights.
Accused students often denied fundamental legal protections
One important thing to remember is that the college investigation/hearing process does not provide accused students with the same legal protections as the criminal justice system. For instance, while the specific procedures can vary from school to school, the policies employed by many Georgia universities have various legal limitations that make it significantly difficult for those accused to mount any kind of defense. These limitations often include, but are not limited to:
- No right to cross-examination: The right to cross-examine your accuser is often curtailed, and in many cases, completely not allowed, during university hearings – if there is a hearing at all. In fact, in some cases, there is no formal hearing and a panel or investigator simply makes a decision based on the evidence provided to them. If you are unable to directly challenge your accuser or other witnesses, how are you expected to defend yourself against unfounded allegations?
- Lower burden of proof: While the burden of proof used in criminal trials is beyond a reasonable doubt, no such burden exists for college proceedings. Given the lower burden, a student can be expelled and have his or her future ruined based on allegations that a criminal prosecutor would never pursue because of weak or nonexistent evidence.
- Limited information: In some instances, an accused student may have to respond to accusations or take part in a hearing without even knowing the specific details of the allegations against him or her.
Even though university disciplinary proceedings will not lead to jail time, they can still ruin lives. For example, not only can accused students face expulsion, but they often find it difficult to be re-admitted to another school given the accusations looming over their heads. Quite simply, this one-sided process can have consequences that will stick with accused students forever, no matter if the accusations are legitimate or not.
Sounds legal representation is a must
Whether you are a student facing allegations of sexual misconduct before a school tribunal or, conversely, actual criminal charges in a court of law, you need an experienced attorney by your side defending your rights. A knowledgeable lawyer can explain your legal options and help ensure you are treated fairly.
Contact Cohen & Hirsch today to learn how we can help you protect your future.