New York City Disciplinary Hearings Lawyer
Whenever a student stands accused of sexual misconduct or assault by their school, they are due a fair hearing. However, what procedures or treatment many might think of as fair may not be what is given nor required of the university or private boarding high school when contemplating sanctions. Significantly, public university students possess some measure of constitutional due process rights at these hearings while their peers – enrolled at private or religious educational institutions– do not. When specific procedural rights are offered at these hearings, they are always less than the “full panoply of due process rights” afforded to defendants in a criminal case. Kickertz v. New York Univ., 25 N.Y.3d 942, 944 (2015). Because there are specific nuances to these proceedings, it is important to speak with a New York City disciplinary hearing lawyer if you have been accused of misconduct on your school’s campus. Our top New York City student defense attorneys could help you prepare for these hearings and explain what you should expect moving forward.
Rights Absent During Disciplinary Hearings
If you have been accused of sexual assault or rape by another student, it’s imperative to know your rights as they are provided by the school. Read the university handbook; most have what is known as a Student Bill of Rights. Go over them with retained counsel and discuss how they may affect your strategy when defending the complaint filed at your school. Some due process rights that may be absent from a school’s disciplinary proceeding can include:
- The right to cross-examine the complainant and other witnesses.
- The right to an unbiased panel.
- The right to be presumed innocent.
- The right to be convicted only upon a substantial showing of proof of guilt.
- The right to have your attorney participate at the hearing.
- The right to appeal the disciplinary committee’s findings to the school’s dean or other person of authority.
How Are Disciplinary Hearings Different from Criminal Trials?
If a student ends up facing both school disciplinary procedures and criminal charges for an alleged sexual assault, the two processes would proceed completely independently of each other. While evidence may be shared across the two cases, the outcome of one case would have no direct bearing on the other. Therefore, just because a disciplinary hearing agrees with an allegation of sexual assault does not mean that a criminal conviction is sure to follow in every situation.
This is because of the more lenient standard of proof that most disciplinary hearings revolve around. While criminal courts can only convict someone of a sex-based offense if their guilt is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” private schools and universities often proceed with sanctions based on a “preponderance of the evidence”—a standard that may be more attainable because it leaves much more room for subjectivity in interpreting available evidence. A New York City attorney could help someone prepare for both a disciplinary hearing and criminal trial.
What Interim Measures Might Occur Before a Disciplinary Hearing?
While the exact measures a school takes upon receiving a report of misconduct on campus vary from place to place, there generally will be some form of preliminary action taken before a disciplinary hearing even begins. For example, the City University of New York’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct allows the university to issue no-contact orders that forbid an accused student from contacting their accuser. Other common interim measures include changes to class schedules, changing shifts for work performed on campus, and, in extreme cases, emergency interim suspension of the accused.
What Could Legal Counsel Do to Help During a Disciplinary Hearing?
In many situations, a New York City lawyer cannot accompany a student into their disciplinary hearing, and even if they are allowed inside, they will almost never be allowed to speak on the accused student’s behalf. Prior to the hearing, though, legal counsel could walk an accused student through the questions they are likely to be asked and coach them on what kinds of answers they should give to protect their best interests.
Similarly, a qualified attorney can still do a lot to help guide a disciplinary hearing toward a favorable resolution for the accused student. For example, a lawyer could ask relevant follow-up questions, object to irrelevant questions, and help to draft responses to witness testimony. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, legal representation is critical to preparing for any criminal charges that may stem from the allegation in question.
Speak with a New York City Disciplinary Hearing Attorney
For those found to have committed sexual misconduct by their school, serious repercussions are the result. Most schools impose their most severe sanction – expulsion – when sexual misconduct is found to have been committed by one of their students. When that occurs, the evidence collected by the university may be delivered to local prosecutors who may then use that evidence against you or your child in criminal proceedings where the potential punishment is even greater, such as incarceration and potentially registration as a state sex offender. In short, the consequences of an adverse decision by the school at a disciplinary hearing can be life-altering. For help with your case, contact one of our New York City disciplinary hearing lawyers today.