Schools often have an administrative process for handling sex crime complaints from and between students. This administrative process is not the same as a criminal case, but it can have an impact on any criminal case that may take place down the road. Below is more information regarding this process and what you should know going in.
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In most student sex crimes cases, a complaint to school personnel is what typically begins the administrative process. This process is done by the school and usually occurs before any criminal case takes place.
The issue with the typical school administrative process is that the person accused of the sex crime is not awarded the same constitutional protections through the administrative process as they would be in a criminal investigation. So, for example the constitutional protection afforded during law enforcement custodial interrogations does not exist during similar administrative interviews.
For this reason, a person could be making statements, either full confessions or admissions, which can harm them later on if the case gets indicted. There is no requirement that school administrators advise students of their right to remain silent. Further, there is no remedy if they fail to do so like there is if law enforcement fail to do so.
That is why it is so important for people to reach out to an student defense lawyer immediately as soon as they hear of some sort of allegations of that nature because the damage can start out immediately before the police are even involved.
“Sex crimes” is a broad term, but felony sex crimes convictions require registration on the sex offender registry and that could result in immediate expulsion from college. Even if the court has mercy on you during sentencing and imposes a lenient sentence because of the circumstances of the case, the school can still expel you.
In fact, expulsion is often an unforeseen consequence of the conviction and schools can (and frequently do) expel students even without a criminal conviction. That is one reason why just being accused of sexual assault is a very serious situation for someone in school.
There is really no concrete legal standard in an administrative hearing on campus. This means you could have evidence from a complaining witness that would never end up as evidence in court that can result in suspension or expulsion from the college. Given the harsh consequences, this result is fundamentally unfair.
Another consequence, aside from the expulsion, is being kicked out of on campus housing. This is a consequence that can occur pretty quickly by administration. Being evicted from campus housing can really wreak havoc on student’s plan, especially if they don’t have family members in the area.
When a regular complaint is lodged with the school then the person who is accused is going to be questioned and an investigation is going to start. That person is not going to be aware of what rights they have because nobody from the school is required by law to advise them that they have the right to remain silent and that is the most important thing somebody needs to remember.
Now with that being said, there could be detrimental consequences with not cooperating with the school. It is not a blanket rule that says do not talk to them. It is important to have an attorney with experience who can evaluate the allegations, evaluate the situation, and speak to the client and say, “Well, maybe it is better to cooperate because you do not have anything to hide and if you do not speak with them then you are going to lose your ability to live on campus,” for instance.
Trying to maneuver or trying to deal with the school on your own really doesn’t make sense.
At the same time, there are considerations that go beyond the school disciplinary hearing. Statements you make to the school can be given to law enforcement if the police choose to investigate the allegations.
It is important to have a student defense lawyer present because they can give correct legal advice specific to your case, they can represent and advocate for you, and be your voice to protect you down the road from the most serious types of consequences.
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