If you are accused of a sexual offense that was alleged to have been committed on a university campus, you need to be concerned about the potential for two separate investigations, and two separate systems for imposing penalties.
I . Criminal Investigation and Prosecution
Anytime an allegation of sexual assault is reported to a university, the possibility exists that it will also be reported to law enforcement. While the consequences of an investigation by the university can be serious, a criminal charge for sexual assault can result in a lengthy prison sentence, sex offender registration, and will forever change your life. A criminal investigation should be carefully handled, and because of the consequences, it needs to take priority over the university’s investigation.
So, what should you do if you’re being criminally investigated for a campus sex crime?
- Hire a lawyer who has experience in handling both criminal investigations and Title IX investigations by universities.
When there is a simultaneous criminal investigation and Title IX investigation regarding a sexual assault allegation at a college or university, it can be a balancing act to try to avoid criminal charges or win a criminal case, and also try to avoid sanctions in the university investigation. Hiring a lawyer, like a sex crime lawyer Grand Rapids, MI relies on, with experience in handling both is critical to being successful.
- Do not talk to the police.
This is always advice that is difficult for people to follow, but if you want to avoid being charged with a crime, keep your mouth shut.
- Conduct your own investigation, through your attorney.
Don’t sit back and let the police and the complainant direct how your case is going to play out. Allow your attorney to hire an investigator to interview witnesses, consider taking a polygraph examination, and think about any experts that might be have helpful opinions in your case. Make sure you preserve any electronic evidence such as text messages that are helpful to your case. Helpful evidence can be presented to the police or the prosecutor through your attorney. Do not present any evidence to the police or prosecutor on your own.
II. Title IX Investigation and Sanction Process
A report of sexual assault or sexual misconduct to a university will result in the university beginning an investigation pursuant to their Title IX Sexual Misconduct Policy. This investigation is will be conducted separately from any criminal investigation, and will likely be conducted even if no criminal investigation is opened.
Here’s what you should do if you are notified of a Title IX investigation against you at your college or university:
- Hire an attorney who is experienced in handling Title IX investigations.
A student who is being investigated under a university’s Title IX policy is entitled to have an attorney assist them in handling the investigation, and attend any meetings or interviews as the student’s “support person.”
- Prepare for your interview with investigators.
While you never want to make a statement to the police, deciding whether or not to give an interview to Title IX investigators at a college or university is more of a balancing act. Any statements made to Title IX investigators will surely be turned over to police if there is a criminal investigation, but it is very difficult to avoid consequences in a Title IX proceeding if you do not make a statement to investigators. Therefore, any statement you give must be carefully thought out ahead of time, with the assistance of your attorney.
- Gather helpful evidence that can be submitted to investigators.
With the assistance of your lawyer, work to gather helpful evidence that can be submitted to investigators in the Title IX proceeding, such as expert reports, polygraph results, and electronic evidence such as text messages or social media posts. Make sure that your attorney has reviewed any evidence that you intend to turn over to the investigators prior to providing the evidence.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Blanchard Law for their insight into criminal defense.