College Sexual Assault Investigations in New York City
The complainant or alleged victim typically serves as the catalyst for any college sexual assault investigation in New York City. In the experience of top New York City student defense attorneys, the complainant’s actions (including the hiring of an attorney) often dictates how an investigation by the school unfolds. Generally speaking, after submitting a formal report or complaint with the school’s student disciplinary office or campus police, the complainant is given leeway or discretion on whether to commence a school investigation, notify law enforcement or both. Almost as a rule, complainants often opt to commence a university investigation before handing the case off to law enforcement.
Aspects of a College Sexual Misconduct Investigation
First, a school’s investigation is financed by the school. For a complainant contemplating a civil suit, a school investigation for sexual assault allegations may provide all the evidence they need to secure a civil judgment against you or your child without spending much, if anything, on lawyers or discovery. Second, the substantially lower burden of proof at school disciplinary proceedings means a disciplinary sanction by the school is both quicker and more certain than a jury verdict in a criminal case. Third, accused students at many private high schools and universities do not enjoy the right to remain silent at their college disciplinary hearing. Therefore, an admission or incriminating statement is more likely to be made here than at a trial. Logically, this presents a powerful incentive not just for the accused student to have counsel present for the hearing but increases the likelihood that the complainant’s attorney will be present as well.
Naturally, none of this is in your or your child’s interest. Some universities and private boarding schools provide the accused, in cases where law enforcement has been notified, the right to postpone the school’s disciplinary investigation until after the conclusion of the criminal case. Despite what is at stake in a criminal proceeding, it is often in the accused’s interest to exercise this right when offered by the school. A law enforcement investigation is conducted within the parameters of a later criminal proceeding; a proceeding where you or your child has constitutional rights and the prosecution bears the burden of proof to establish guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” – rights and processes which may be entirely, or partially, absent at the school disciplinary hearing.
What Does the “Enough Is Enough” Policy Require?
New York State has one of the most comprehensive and aggressive approaches to collegiate sexual assault in the United States, due in large part to legislation signed in 2015 by Governor Cuomo. The “Enough Is Enough” legislature sets out a number of requirements for all private colleges in the state, including:
- Establishing a Students’ Bill of Rights that specifically addresses the legal rights of sexual assault victims
- Regular reporting of alleged sexual assaults to the State Education Department
- Adoption of a uniform definition of affirmative consent: “a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity”
- Amnesty from discipline for certain campus policy violations for individuals who report sexual assault
This legislation also earmarked $10 million for various sexual assault prevention organizations on college campuses and established a new sexual assault victims unit within the State Police. While this legislation does not make it impossible to contest sexual assault allegations in New York City, it has made retaining skilled legal counsel more crucial in many situations.
What Consequences Could Come from a School Disciplinary Hearing?
The specific repercussions that a person accused of campus sexual assault could face from their college or university may vary depending on the policies and guidelines in their school’s code of conduct. Still, if an investigation in New York City determines that a sexual assault did occur, it is not uncommon for accused individuals to be suspended indefinitely or expelled permanently from that institution.
Even while the investigation is still ongoing, the accused party may be restricted in terms of what buildings they can enter, what events they can attend, or whether they can set foot on campus at all. In the case of foreign nationals studying at a New York City university, a sexual assault investigation could potentially end with them losing their visa status and being forced to return home early.
Could a Complainant Get a Restraining Order Against the Person They Accused?
Generally speaking, restraining orders can only be ordered by a criminal court in New York State, so a college sexual assault investigation alone may not justify a legally enforceable one. However, if the accused party is arrested by law enforcement authorities, it may be possible for the complainant to seek an order of protection or restraining order that could keep the accused from returning to campus even while the investigation into their alleged conduct is still ongoing. A criminal defense attorney could offer further clarification about when this type of measure may be available and what kind of impact it could have on a case.
A New York City Attorney Could Help Handle College Sexual Assault Investigations
If you or your child faces a college sexual assault investigation in New York City, please seek legal help from an experienced attorney whether you go to Columbia University, Fordham, NYU or any school in Connecticut, New Jersey or throughout the country. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman have represented students at schools as far away as in Alabama and Georgia. Universities and colleges are quicker than ever to expel students on complaints of sexual misconduct upon the conclusion of their investigation.
You or your child are at risk for both discrimination and arbitrary punishment for their alleged role in the perceived media crusade against colleges and university’s handling of sexual assault or harassment claims by female students. By consulting with a defense lawyer with a proven track record of obtaining favorable results for their clients, you can take immediate steps to preserve your child’s still bright future and good name. Call today to get started on your case.