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Sex Crimes

Campus Sex Crimes (Title IX)

Schiffer Law Firm has been defending students wrongfully accused of campus sex crimes for over 40 years.

Accused of a Title IX offense of sexual assault?

At Schiffer Law Firm, we have great experience successfully representing students who’ve received notice of an alleged sexual assault from the school’s Title IX coordinator. The letter usually reads that you have been recently accused of violating the schools code of student conduct. They further request, if not demand, that you come down for a Title IX interview and give you a time and date or to contact them to schedule it. This is almost always a complete and gut-wrenching shock to our clients when they first get this letter. They understandably do not know what to do. These are the usual questions running through their head in our experience:

  • Am I going to get arrested?
  • Am I going to get expelled?
  • Should I tell my parents?
  • Are they going to expel me?
  • Can I interview and talk myself out or resolve this without anyone ever knowing?
  • Do I need a lawyer?

These questions are almost universal, and they are reasonable given the unique and life-altering circumstances they’re now in.

Accusations of sex crimes occurring on college and university campuses are common and law enforcement is constantly dealing with these matters. With sexual assaults being serious crimes, the state sees these issues as a top priority and prosecutes offenders aggressively. Thus, even if only right now the school is making an inquiry, it could easily be investigated by state or federal law enforcement and criminal prosecution could be a possibility. That is why taking this seriously and getting experienced Title IX legal counsel early is crucial to a successful outcome.

If you find yourself being accused of an on-campus sexual assault crime of any nature, you’re facing serious charges and need a lawyer on your side hands down.

What is it like working with Schiffer Law Firm?

The criminal penalties attached to sexual assault crimes are steep and the investigations are tough. By aligning yourself with Schiffer Law Firm, you will have a professional and experienced Title IX sex crimes defense team with decades of experience and resources on your side. We will make sure your rights are protected throughout the entire Title IX investigation and potential final hearing, and will work hard to help you maintain your enrollment, good standing, and avoid criminal prosecution.

If you are a college student accused of sexual assault, you might be facing more than criminal penalties. Most colleges have codes of conduct that prohibit sexual misconduct, and, unlike a criminal proceeding, the college is not required to respect your rights to due process. Upon an allegation of sexual assault, you could be expelled from your school, wasting the money and effort you expended up until that point at the college of your choice. It would make it more difficult to ever be admitted to another quality college or university, whether to finish your undergraduate degree or to pursue an advanced degree.

It is this complex cascade of consequences that makes these charges so difficult. Schiffer Law Firm has the experience, not only in defending against the crime of sexual assault, but also in navigating the tricky and often one-sided ramifications with the educational institution, that you need to properly defend yourself against this charge. Luckily, hiring an experienced Title IX sex crimes defense attorney can help protect you. There are many different layers to a Title IX sexual assault investigation.

When you work with Schiffer Law Firm and our defense team, you’ll have the positive support, counsel, and resources you’ll need to have a fighting chance. Prosecutors, law enforcement, and college administrators tend to be quite harsh based on the serious nature of these crimes, and they often don’t look at the real person behind the allegation. We do the exact opposite. When you work with the our defense team, you’ll never be judged based on any allegation. Instead, you’ll be treated with dignity and respect from the moment you contact us throughout the duration of your case. Having that soft spot in a turbulent time can help make a bad situation a little more tolerable and we look to do just that.

When you contact Schiffer Law Firm, we’ll delve deep into the accusation, analyze the facts, begin out own private investigation if need be, and begin to create a unique defense strategy tailored specifically for your school, accusations, and goals.

We will also tell you what you can expect during a Title IX investigation. We will work around the clock to make sure that you have the best chance of proving your innocence and keeping your enrollment, good standing, and avoid the possibility of criminal charges.

What are the most common sex crimes students are accused of at college?

Campus sex crimes don’t just consist of rape. There are a few different charges that college students can find themselves accused of at any given time. Here are brief descriptions of the most common campus sex crimes.

Rape and Sexual Assault

According to Sections 22.011 and 22.021 of the Texas Penal Code, rape is sexual intercourse without the consent of the other party while sexual assault is sexual contact without consent. In order for a crime to be committed under these statutes, there has to be an intentional act knowingly done without the consent of the victim. One or more of the following elements must also be in place:

Date Rape

Section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code also covers date rape. This is a sexual assault that is committed with the aid of a chemical substance that is intended to incapacitate the victim so he or she is unable to protect him or herself, or physically resist his or her attacker. This is considered aggravated sexual assault because of the use of the drug.  The well-known date rape substances are:

Statutory Rape

Statutory rape is a sexual assault between an adult and a minor under 17 years old who are not married. According to Section 21.011 of the Texas Penal Code, a crime is committed when there is sexual penetration between the adult and the minor. Here, the victim’s consent is not a defense because minors are considered incapable of giving sexual consent under the law. There doesn’t need to be violence or force involved, either.

Indecent Exposure

According to Section 21.08 of the Texas Penal Code, there is a crime committed when a person exposes his genitals or anus with the purpose of sexual arousal or gratifying sexual desires of their own or of the victim. That exposure may be intentional, or it may be reckless, meaning that the accused didn’t take into account whether or not there might be a person nearby who would be offended by the exposure. No physical contact needs to occur here, as contact would elevate this to an even more serious charge.

College Sexual Assault Statistics

According to a 2014 study done by the US Department of Education, campus sex crimes are consistently reported and Texas colleges and universities are no exception. This study found that local universities had as many as 17 reports or campus sex crimes. Statistics also show that as much as 25 percent of college women have reported sexual assault at least once and that only 5 percent of these crimes are officially reported.

With statistics like this being a matter of public knowledge, most students accused of a sex crime are presumed guilty before their case is even tried. This makes it harder for you as the accused, because you will face backlash from your community, school, friends, and even relatives once an allegation is made against you. However, you’re entitled to equal protection under the law as well as due process and the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. This is where having an experienced defense attorney on your side can help as they will fight for your rights and protect your freedoms every step of the way.

Possible Penalties for Campus Sex Crimes

Every sex crime is unique and comes with its own range of penalties. If criminally convicted of any campus sex crime, you face serious penalties that include jail time and fines, and you will most likely have to register as a sex offender for a given period of time. When you meet with our defense attorneys, they will tell you the specific penalties you face based on the facts of your case, but, for reference, here is a breakdown of common campus sex crimes and their ranges of penalty.

Crime Classification Punishment
Sexual assault Second-degree felony 2-20 years in state prison, maximum fines of $10,000, lifetime sex offender registration
Aggravated sexual assault First-degree felony 5-99 years in state prison, maximum fines of $10,000, lifetime sex offender registration
Date Rape First-degree felony 2-99 years in state prison, maximum fines of $10,000, lifetime sex offender registration
Statutory Rape Second-degree felony 2-20 years in state prison, maximum fines of $10,000, possibility of longer sentences based on mitigating factors, required sex offender registration for 10 years to life
Indecent Exposure Class B Misdemeanor Up to 180 days in prison, maximum of $2,000 in fines, possibility of elevated sentence based on mitigating factors and prior criminal history, 10-year sex offender registration for repeat offenders

The mere allegation of a sex crime is bad enough. The penalties for a conviction and the ramifications after you complete your sentence are even worse. If found guilty of any crime, you will have a criminal record that is publicly available to anyone who does a background check on you. You will also likely have to register as a sex offender. This puts all of your personal information in a public database that can be pulled up by anyone at any time. Based on these facts, you can face problems in different aspects of your life. Some of these consequences are:

Possible Defenses

Depending on what kind of sex crime you are being accused of, there are credible defenses that might be available to you. As these crimes usually happen in private, there may be no other witnesses other than the victim and the accused. That makes these cases more difficult to prove for the prosecution, and equally difficult for the defense attorney to defend against.

In general, our defense attorneys will analyze the facts of your case, interview witnesses if helpful, and build you a solid defense. If your case ultimately goes to trial, our defense team will present evidence to show that the prosecution has not met their burden of proof, cross-examine the state’s witnesses to create reasonable doubt about their statements, and present evidence in your defense.

Presumed Consent

It’s very common in our experience that our client was engaging in consensual sex with the alleged victim, who, regretting his or her decision, subsequently claimed that the sexual activity was actually not consensual. We have seen this from simple shame to outright malice. Such as, there are instances where a bitter ex-flame makes rape accusations against his or her former partner out of revenge. While difficult, these types are cases are ideal for an experienced and tough defense attorney. The key is not simply saying it is a fabrication of events, it is an outright destruction of the accuser’s credibility and story by exposing the real reasons behind their reneged consent and future false accusations. Simply, sometimes, it’s that they made the statement for a small, selfish purpose, however, it’s gone so far now that they cannot recant without fearing their own fateful consequences of telling the truth. This is very difficult, which is why experience in do this matters so much.

Lack of Intent

In certain cases, especially indecent exposure cases, a lack of intent can be used as a credible defense. Here, your defense attorney can show that the accused didn’t have an intention to gratify a sexual need or arouse sexual feelings in another by exposing him or herself, which would mean that one of the key elements of the crime of indecent exposure has not been met.

Mistaken Identity or False Accusation

Just because you were accused of a campus sex crime doesn’t mean that you actually did it. You could’ve been misidentified by witnesses or a grainy surveillance camera, or you could simply be falsely accused by a vindictive person. Our defense team will work to expose the flaws in the prosecution’s case, and do our own investigation if necessary to prove your innocence in these cases.

Other Defenses

There are a few other defenses available for people accused of campus sex crimes. One of these is stress or duress. This is when a crime was committed, but the accused only participated because he or she was threatened with harm, or otherwise forced to commit the act.

Another possible defense is an insanity plea. Although rarely used, if the accused has a mental illness or some kind of disorder that medically proves that they can’t be held accountable for their actions, our defense team could make that argument in court. Some mental illnesses can also play a role in a lack of intent defense.

Marital Exemption

This is a specific defense that can be used in statutory rape cases. In Texas, the marital exemption allows for a consensual relationship between an adult and a minor under the age of 17 as long as they are legally married.

Violation of the Codes of Student Conduct & Sexual Assault Policies

While sex crimes are handled by law enforcement, colleges and universities must disclose all information they have regarding sexual crimes that are committed on campus. These institutes also develop their own policies to try and prevent sexual assaults on campus. These usually vary from one school to another, but there are the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act and the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights to offer some streamlined regulations for schools.

Generally, when a student enrolls at a university they are agreeing to abide by a broad and sometimes ambiguous code of student conduct. One of these is almost always that a student will not commit any act, such as a sex act, on another student without their full consent. However, the code usually discusses consent and will discuss how intoxication can impair if not void one’s ability to consent. Thus, it is no secret that a great deal of alcohol is consumed during college, and this is where a majority of the Title IX accusations begin.

What is a Title IX sex crime final hearing like?

Certain institutions will hold campus hearings in certain situations where a sex crime is reported within the school. This is so the school can conduct its own investigation into the allegations so it can determine if the accused violated the school’s sexual assault policy. In these cases, the rights of the accused are usually limited when compared to their rights in a criminal investigation and trial. Here, most institutes use a preponderance of the evidence standard instead of reasonable doubt, meaning that an investigation only has to prove that it is more likely than not that the accused violated the campus’s sexual assault policy.

Here, while the defense attorney’s role may be limited, having our defense attorneys with experience handling college administration actions related to sexual conduct cases is invaluable. A separate criminal investigation will not prohibit a school from conducting its own investigation, so the accused essentially ends up having to defend himself in two very different arenas if they are also criminally charged. Even if the criminal charge against the accused is dismissed, a college or university can still proceed to try as hard as they can to expel the accused.

What are Title IX hearings?

Campus investigations related to sexual misconduct are often referred to as Title IX actions. The federal law known as Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in higher education. All schools that accept federal funds must comply with Title IX. It’s intention is to make sure students aren’t deprived of access to any educational opportunities because of their sex. This has been equated to campus sex crimes by most colleges as well as by the US Department of Education, with the argument being that women are being deprived of equal educational opportunities because of the prevalence of campus sex crimes.

When is a university required to investigate and address a campus sexual assault complaint?

The answer: immediately, even if a complaint was not officially filed.

In 2017, the US Department of Education issued guidelines advising universities that they have to address all instances of sexual misconduct on campus, including those where no complaint was filed. For instance, if a school is aware that an incident of sexual misconduct may have occurred, but no one reported anything, they have to take action to address the issue. It should be noted that these guidelines aren’t laws, but they do explain to the schools how the Department of Education will handle all Title IX complaints they receive.

Similarly, schools have to investigate the cases and publish “grievance procedures” in order to resolve the cases. The school is expected to gather sufficient evidence and hold a Title IX Hearing to reach an impartial determination on whether or not the sexual misconduct in question occurred. All of this is done in order to make sure that colleges are doing their part to curb hostile educational environments and to maintain equal rights for all students on campus.

While Title IX was made to help provide all students with equal rights in respect of their education and educational environment, its existence does create a more contentious atmosphere for anyone accused of a campus sex crime. That makes having a knowledgeable and experienced Title IX sex crimes defense attorney on your side even more important. You need to have someone in your corner who not only knows your rights, but knows how to protect them for your greatest outcome.

Is it illegal for someone to not report a Title IX sexual assault?

The simple answer: Yes. Texas passed a law in 2020 that requires any staff or faculty of a university who has reason to believe that a sexual assault that would be reportable as a Title IX offense has occurred to immediately make a report to the Title IX coordinator’s office. The law states that failure to do so could be criminally prosecuted and face possible incarceration and/or civil fines, and that an intentional concealment of an offense by an employee will increase the offense level to a higher degree.

How has Schiffer Law Firm Successfully Defended Title IX Investigations and Campus Sex Crimes?

That’s a great question, but you won’t find the answer here. While there is nothing inherently secret about a great defense, some attorneys are simply better prepared, more creative, and more experienced than others. It’s that combination that makes Schiffer Law Firm’s Title IX defense team successful in defending these unique types of cases.

A professional sports team, or an army preparing for battle, doesn’t disclose its strategy to the opposition. It is only through a confidential, in-person, meeting with our attorneys, where your information is protected by the attorney-client privilege, that we’ll hear your story and then discuss potential strategies that will be tailored to your circumstances.

Call today to set up a meeting with our attorneys. Be sure to bring any paperwork, including your initial notice letter from the Title IX coordinator, and any other information you have about your case or any investigation.

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"My biggest fear was that I was gonna be taken away from my family. That I was not gonna be able to see the people I love. The Schiffer Law Firm were a godsend."
Former Sex Crime Client, Houston, Texas