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Campus Rape Policies Get a New Look

July 13, 2017, on College Campus Crimes |

There are safeguards built into the criminal justice system to protect the rights of defendants who have been accused of sexual assault and related offenses – including the right to hire an attorney and the right to be considered innocent of an offense unless proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A New York sex crime lawyer can provide representation to defendants who are facing prosecution.

Unfortunately, no such safeguards exist when a defendant has been accused of a sex crime on a college campus and is being subject to disciplinary procedures on the campus. Being accused of a sex-related offense can derail a college career and destroy a future, especially if the person who is accused is not treated fairly or given a true chance to defend his good name and avoid consequences up-to-and-including suspension and expulsion with a note on his permanent record.

There has been a lot of attention paid to the ways in which campuses handle rape or sexual assault cases because of the controversy over how defendants should be treated versus the importance of protecting the rights of victims. Now, the New York Times writes that the current policies on campus rape that were put in place during the last presidential administration are getting a second look.

Reconsidering Campus Rape Policies

Many advocates of sexual assault victims claimed, in recent years, that college administrators were not taking the problem of rapes on campus serious enough. The Obama administration responded to the criticisms of higher education officials by using Title IX to encourage colleges to be very proactive in protecting victims, perhaps to the detriment of the people (mostly men) accused of offenses.

Now, officials in the Trump administration are reconsidering rules, which even some well-regarded law professors believe may have gone too far, according to the New York Times. 

Among the problems -- investigators were allegedly told to continue investigating college campuses until a problem is found, according to the new head of the Education Departments Office for Civil Rights (critics deny this is the case). The Office of Civil Rights for the Education Department does currently have 496 open sexual assault cases under investigation and the average length that a case has been opened is 703 days, although some cases have been open for five years or longer.

Other issues include the problem of investigation processes that heavily favor the accuser over the accused, and the allegedly high percentage of cases in which both parties were drunk and both consented, only for the accuser to change her mind later on once she became sober or once a couple broke up.

Among the many policy changes being considered, the Trump administration is contemplating rescinding a “dear colleague” letter which the Obama administration used to put colleges on notice that millions of dollars in federal funding could be at risk if schools were not aggressive in taking action when allegations of assault were made.

The guidance, among other things, mandated a “preponderance of the evidence” standard be used in disciplinary proceedings, which is far less than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal cases and which is less burdensome than the previous “clear and convincing” evidence standard many schools had been using before receiving the guidance.  Advocates for the accused particularly want this change rescinded so a tougher burden of proof would once again be needed before life-changing penalties were imposed on someone accused of assault. 

If you have been accused of any sexually-based offense, whether on or off a college campus, it is vital that you get the very best legal advice possible from an advocate who understands the potential consequences that you could face due to the accusations. Contact a New York sex crime lawyer at The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC today to receive help with your legal issues.

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