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How a Student Defense Attorney Can Help

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Protecting the Rights and Interests of College and University Students

What Do You Need Help With?

Title IX Actions

Our student rights lawyers represent both complainants and respondents in sexual assault or harassment actions under Title IX.

Disciplinary Actions

We defend students charged with violations of college conduct codes, rules, and/or “honor codes.”

The Right Lawyer Can Make All the Difference

If you’ve arrived at this page, you’re probably looking for information about — or seeking help to solve – a significant problem you’re facing at your school.

We are a team of highly experienced Title IX attorneys who focus exclusively on how colleges and universities handle their Title IX and Conduct Code policies and procedures. We represent undergraduate and graduate students throughout the United States. We never represent the school.

Our job as Title IX lawyers is to carefully guide you through the extremely complex process and to rigorously protect your rights at every step — from initial notification, through investigations, to hearings, and if necessary, appeal.

Once a school has started either a formal or informal process, time is absolutely of the essence. The sooner you get guidance, the better — because what you say or don’t say to anyone involved, whether fellow student or school official, can have a critical impact on your case (and thus, on your status at the school).

Our main Title IX Violations page will get you started if that’s what you need help with. And our main Conduct Code Violations page is the place to start if you’re facing that kind of charge.

Also check out our Guide to the College and University Title IX and Disciplinary Process . We believe it’s the single most comprehensive and up-to-date guide available anywhere.

Title IX: The Basics

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is one of the most complicated and, perhaps, misunderstood federal laws. In short, Title IX protects students, faculty, coaches, and other employees at publicly funded schools from discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. This law applies to the vast majority of colleges and universities in the United States, as well as to the students at these institutions.

Many issues can arise under Title IX, including:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual assault
  • A school’s failure to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct
  • Gender discrimination including sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Unequal athletic opportunities for men and women
  • Unequal access to facilities or educational programs

Title IX governs how schools must treat its students when a claim of a violation is made. The person making the claim of an act or pattern of sexual misconduct (also known as the complainant) should receive the necessary protection to continue their education, including changing schedules, housing, and more. They are entitled by law to a fair investigation into the allegations, as well as proper disciplinary action against the accused if a school determines the misconduct occurred.

On the other hand, a student accused of sexual misconduct (often called the respondent) also has the right to due process before the school takes any disciplinary action. On August 14th, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education implemented new regulations schools must follow that affect both complainants and respondents.

Our Student Rights Lawyers Also Assist with Conduct Code Violations

Every public and private college and university in the United States has a code of conduct. While these codes may differ in the details, one thing remains the same: a conduct code violation can put your higher education—and your future—in jeopardy. These codes cover hundreds of possible violations, but some of the more common acts that get college students into trouble include:

  • Hazing
  • Drug possession
  • Academic violations
  • Underage drinking

In many cases, a student may not even know he or she has violated a rule. For example, most students understand that plagiarism is against their conduct code’s academic dishonesty policy, but they may not realize that a charge of “self-plagiarism” can carry the same harsh penalties. Students often believe they can harmlessly use ideas or material from a previous paper they wrote, but then receive a failing grade —or worse, a permanent mark on their academic records.

If your school accuses you of a code of conduct violation, you will likely need to attend a disciplinary hearing. The results of this hearing can determine your future path, and you need to ensure that you know how to best protect your rights. We regularly advise students to help them avoid wrongful violations or overly harsh consequences.

Possible Criminal Charges

Not only can misconduct get college students in trouble with their institutions, but some acts also violate state law. Colleges or crime victims may report criminal acts to local authorities, and suddenly a student can face arrest and serious criminal charges. In many situations, a criminal case can take place at the same time as a college disciplinary hearing.

Students in this position must seek qualified legal representation from a student defense attorney who can handle both the college disciplinary case and the case in criminal court. Never take any criminal charge lightly—even if it seems relatively minor. Even a state misdemeanor conviction can result in costly fines, probation, or time in jail. Criminal convictions on your record can leave lasting consequences, as they can affect your future employment and educational opportunities. You may become ineligible for collegiate athletics, may lose scholarships and financial aid, and may even get expelled from your school.

At Duffy Law, our attorneys defend college students in Connecticut against an array of criminal charges. For students in other states, our student rights lawyers identify and work closely with highly skilled criminal defense attorneys who practice in the state where charges are pending or were filed. Our student rights law firm maintains detailed contact with local attorneys in order to closely coordinate both the criminal defense and the school disciplinary defense strategies. Common conduct code violations that can lead to concurrent criminal charges include:

  • Underage alcohol possession
  • Hazing
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Marijuana or narcotic possession
  • Possession of pharmaceutical drugs
  • Assault
  • Domestic assault
  • Sexual assault

What to Expect if You or Your Child is Facing Accusations

Whether you are facing consequences as a student or you are concerned about what accusations could mean for your child’s academic and professional career, it is important to know what to expect as you move forward. Title IX actions, disciplinary actions and criminal cases all proceed very differently—and you (or your student) could potentially be dealing with all three at the same time.

Regardless of your (or your student’s) situation, a student rights lawyer at Duffy Law can help. Here is a brief overview of what to expect in each type of case once you get one of our lawyers involved:

What To Expect in a Title IX Action

Title IX cases typically begin with an investigation. When a student files a Title IX complaint, the college or university is legally required to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation. While this investigation will usually transpire over a period of weeks, in some cases it can take months or years for school administrators to conclude their inquiry.

When you engage a student defense lawyer at Duffy Law, your lawyer will play an active role in the investigation. Your lawyer will ensure that the investigation is conducted fairly and does not infringe your (or your student’s) legal rights. Your student defense attorney will also oversee an independent investigation focused on gathering any evidence the school’s investigators may have overlooked so that your lawyer can provide the strongest possible defense.

In many cases, errors and delays during a Title IX investigation can provide defenses in subsequent disciplinary proceedings. For example, students are entitled to due process in Title IX cases, and unreasonable delays may violate a student’s due process rights. Understanding, identifying and asserting these defenses requires the advice and representation of an experienced student rights lawyer.

As part of the investigative process, you (or your student) may be asked to sit for an interview. The school may also schedule a hearing. Students are entitled to legal representation during both of these interactions with school officials, and it is extremely important to have legal counsel present to avoid any statements that could lead to an adverse outcome.

Once a college or university completes a Title IX investigation, it will render a decision. Most schools apply the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which means that it must be more likely than not that the accused student committed the misconduct in question. Who makes this decision? It depends. Some colleges and universities have a Title IX tribunal or panel of representatives, while others employ a single “Title IX specialist” who is responsible for conducting the investigation and determining the final outcome.

What To Expect in a Disciplinary Proceeding Involving a Code Violation

Disciplinary proceedings involving code of conduct violations outside of Title IX are often very different. While most colleges and universities use the same basic judiciary model, each school adopts its own unique set of policies and procedures. These policies and procedures govern everything from who decides whether a student should face discipline to whether students who are facing discipline are entitled to legal representation.

Even if a student is not entitled to legal representation during a disciplinary process, the student is still entitled to representation before (and after) the process. Hiring a student defense lawyer before a disciplinary hearing serves several important purposes. Not only can your lawyer conduct an investigation to collect favorable evidence and determine who may be available to provide an oral or written statement of support, but your lawyer can also prepare you (or your student) for the interview/meeting/hearing by conducting mock questioning, preparing an opening and closing statement (if permitted), and explaining in detail what to expect and how to identify issues that spell trouble.

Because our lawyers for college students have experience representing both sides, we know that depending on the school involved in college and university disciplinary proceedings, the odds may be stacked against the accused or the complainant based on the school’s biases against one or the other. That said, hiring an experienced student rights lawyer can help turn the tables in your (or your student’s) favor, and it can help ensure that you have every possible opportunity to challenge an unfavorable outcome if necessary.

What To Expect When Facing Criminal Allegations as a College Student

Accusations of sexual harassment, underage drinking and various other forms of misconduct can also lead to criminal allegations in many cases. When accusations lead to charges, not only is the accused’s academic record at stake, but the accused’s criminal record is at stake as well.

Even if a criminal conviction does not result in jail time (which is a very real possibility in many cases), having a criminal record can negatively impact your life long after college. Having a criminal record will significantly impair your job prospects, and it can also make it harder to do things like finding housing and getting a loan for a house or car. While expungement may be a possibility years down the line, (i) not all crimes are eligible for expungement; and, (ii) even once you have your record cleared, you will still be dealing with the consequences of years’ worth of stunted professional development and financial growth.

Criminal justice procedures vary greatly from state to state, and cases prosecuted at the federal level involve unique laws, rules and procedures. To determine what you need to do to protect yourself (or what you can do to help protect your student), you need an experienced student defense lawyer. At Duffy Law, we can help, and we can also ensure that your (or your student’s) Title IX or code of conduct defense does not create unnecessary exposure in related criminal proceedings.

What to Expect if You Have a Title IX Complaint

If you believe you may have a Title IX complaint as the result of sex-based or gender-based discrimination, sexual misconduct, or any other statutory violation, a student rights lawyer at Duffy Law can explain your legal rights and guide you through your next steps. Unfortunately, despite growing acceptance of the prevalence and long-term consequences of discrimination and harassment, many colleges and universities still view students’ complaints with skepticism. Colleges and universities also have a vested interest in disputing students’ allegations, as successful complaints can lead to both financial liability and negative publicity.

When you schedule an appointment to speak with a student rights lawyer at Duffy Law about your Title IX complaint, your lawyer will listen to everything you have to say. Your lawyer will also ask you lots of questions. These questions are not meant to challenge the credibility of what you have to say, but rather to ensure that we have all of the information we need to assess your legal rights and represent you effectively.

If you have not already reported the Title IX violation to your school, your student rights lawyer will handle this for you. Your lawyer will also deal with your school’s administrators throughout the investigative process. Your lawyer will prepare you for (and represent you during) your Title IX hearing, and your lawyer will take all necessary legal steps on your behalf.

Depending on the scope of your allegations, resolving your Title IX complaint could take anywhere from weeks to years. For example, while complaints involving other students are often (though not always) resolved relatively quickly, if your complaint relates to disparate treatment in an academic or athletic program, this is a much more complex case that will likely take much more time to resolve. But, regardless of the circumstances involved, asserting your legal rights is important, and obtaining a just outcome will be well worth the effort.

Should I Hire a Student Rights Lawyer?

At this point, you may be wondering whether you should hire a student rights lawyer. Is it worth it? Or, are you just as well off trying to handle your situation on your own?

Regardless of your circumstances, if you are facing discipline or have a Title IX complaint at a college or university, there are many ways an experienced lawyer can help you. Here are just some of the ways we help our clients:

  • Explaining the Process – In many cases, one of the first challenges students face is simply knowing where to begin. Our student rights lawyers can walk you through the process, explain what you can expect and outline the options you have available.
  • Making Informed Decisions – When dealing with legal or disciplinary issues that have the potential to affect your academic, athletic or professional career, you need to make informed decisions. Our lawyers can help you make the right decisions with your long-term best interests in mind.
  • Leveraging All Opportunities – Various opportunities can present themselves during Title IX investigations and other formal and informal proceedings. Our lawyers know how to identify these opportunities and use them to your advantage.
  • Fighting Administrative Injustice – Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for students to receive unfair results at the administrative level. If necessary, our lawyers can help you fight administrative injustice in the courts.
  • Guiding You Forward – In all situations, we help guide our clients forward. Our student defense lawyers understand the significant implications of dealing with Title IX violations, code of conduct violations and criminal issues, and we rely on decades of relevant experience to help maximize our clients’ chances of success.

Early Guidance is Key

Remember: Whether you are lodging a claim of a Title IX violation or you’re responding to one, or whether you’re responding to an alleged conduct code violation by your school — the process is more complicated than you probably realize. And how you handle the procedures (who you talk to, what you say, how you treat “evidence” of guilt or innocence, etc) will have major consequences in your life. So get guidance as quickly as you possibly can. Our student defense attorneys are here to answer your questions.

How Can We Help?

How Can We Help?