Houston Campus Sex Crimes Attorney
In recent years there has been increased focus on sexual assault and similar crimes committed on college campuses. According to multiple studies, about 1 in 20 women attending a college or university in the United States is a victim of rape or attempted rape. In response to these studies, local colleges and federal regulators have adopted new regulations designed to investigate and punish students accused of sexual misconduct.
Unfortunately, this rush to judgment often leaves the accused student without sufficient due process protections. And while colleges may not have the power to impose criminal sanctions, they can still do significant damage to an innocent person’s reputation and livelihood. This is why if you are a college student accused of misconduct, you need to work with an experienced Houston campus sex crimes attorney who can fight to ensure your school respects your legal rights.
The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates provides full-service representation to individuals accused of sex crimes, whether they allegedly occurred on- or off-campus. Principal attorney Tad Nelson is a former criminal prosecutor, which means he understands how sexual assault investigations are conducted. He can spot the weakness in an accuser’s testimony or other evidence. And his team will offer zealous representation to safeguard you against false and malicious accusations of sexual assault.
Why Do College Campuses Investigate Sexual Assault?
You might be asking yourself, “Why do colleges investigate rape accusations?” After all, if someone commits a crime, shouldn’t that be a police matter? Not only are professional law enforcement officers trained to investigate sex crimes, but the criminal justice system also affords the accused certain protections, such as the right to counsel and the right not to be forced to testify against oneself.
But all colleges and universities that accept federal funds–which is pretty much all of them–must also comply with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in higher education. Specifically, Title IX says an institution may not deprive a student of “access to educational opportunities on the basis of sex.” This has led both the U.S. Department of Education and most colleges to adopt policies equating campus sex crimes with depriving women of their right to equal educational opportunities.
In September 2017, the Department of Education issued its latest guidance on this subject. The Department said universities must take action to address sexual misconduct on campus. This includes cases where the alleged victim does not file a complaint. Instead, the school must act where it “knows or reasonably should know of an incident of sexual misconduct.”
All schools must publish “grievance procedures” to resolve campus sexual misconduct cases. The institution must conduct a “prompt” and “equitable” investigation. The Department notes the “burden is on the school–not on the parties–to gather sufficient evidence to reach a fair, impartial determination as to whether sexual misconduct has occurred.”
If the institution decides to “adjudicate” a sexual misconduct complaint, it must give both the accuser and the accused “the same meaningful access to information” gathered during the investigation. Both sides must also be afforded equal rights at any hearing. But the Department does not require a school to follow the same rules as a regular civil or criminal court.
Campus Hearings vs. Criminal Trials
Indeed, if you are facing a Houston campus sex crimes accusation, you may find your actual rights are severely limited. In the University of Houston System, for example, you are entitled to the assistance of an attorney or other “advisor,” but this person “may not speak on your behalf or otherwise participate in” any formal hearing. And even if you are under separate criminal investigation, UHS “will move forward with their investigation,” even if you are never charged with a crime.
Many schools, including UHS, also use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when adjudicating campus sexual assault complaints. This means the accuser or the school’s investigators must only establish it was “more likely than not” that the accused violated campus policies. The preponderance standard is the same one used in most Texas civil cases. It is a substantially lower threshold than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the standard mandated in criminal rape cases.
We Help Falsely Accused College Students in the Houston Area
A campus sexual assault charge can easily destroy your life. Not only could you be expelled from school–and labeled a sex offender in the court of public opinion–but the school’s actions may lead to formal criminal charges by the police and the district attorney. In short, you need to take a campus rape allegation seriously, especially if you know the charges are false.
The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates can help. We have nearly two decades of experience in assisting individuals accused of sex crimes. If you are a University of Houston, Texas Southern University, or Rice University student facing campus sex crimes accusations, call us today at (713) 802-1631 to schedule a consultation.