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Distinction Between Title IX Investigation Disciplinary Process and Criminal Procedures

  • Case Results
  • Testimonials
  • List of Schools

Case Results

Here are some representative results we’ve achieved for our clients.

Female complainant’s rights, health, and safety protected throughout lengthy proceedings

Our client was sexually assaulted by a male student acquaintance. We became involved to support our client in getting proper medical treatment, preserving and collecting evidence and witness testimony, and securing therapeutic support. We helped her understand and navigate the many complex options available to her, including a criminal complaint, an informal complaint process, a formal complaint process, or doing nothing. We guided her through the informal process and then the formal process, including interviews with various school and law enforcement officials, and worked closely with the school to put in place appropriate accommodations ensuring that all interviews and hearings did not retraumatize her. The male student was found responsible and was expelled.

Large private university

Witness to sexual violence protected from intimidation

We represented a female witness to a dating violence case on campus who was being pressured to speak with the police and the school investigators about a violent matter she had witnessed on her dorm floor. We immediately communicated on her behalf to the local police, school administrators, and the Title IX investigators to protect her right to choose to not testify and ensure her safety on campus. She was very relieved not to be pressured by the school, the title IX office or the police to attend the hearing and testify about fellow students.

Small private college

Investigation of sexual assault complaint concludes with no charges filed

Our client contacted us immediately upon receiving notice by his school that a claim of sexual assault was made against him by a female student. We assisted him in preparing his detailed answer to the complaint, and then prepared him and accompanied him to his interview with the campus safety police officers. We worked with the school Title IX administrators and helped our client find evidence to show inconsistencies with the complaint. The complainant withdrew her complaint when presented with these inconsistencies and then recanted. The investigation ended and our client was not charged with anything.

Midsized private college

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Client Testimonials

I was introduced to Attorney Duffy by my criminal defense attorney because I was fighting both a criminal charge and a conduct code violations charge. Felice's office responded right away and she and I met by Zoom video. She and her team were respectful, professional and super knowledgeable. They made everything clear and easily understandable. They knew exactly what questions to ask the school officials to get them to focus on the facts that supported my case. I was incredibly well prepared. I knew what I was going to say before I went in to my interviews and how to react to the many questions that would have tripped me up. I got probation, which was definitely the best possible outcome and I couldn’t have gotten that without Attorney Duffy’s help.

College Junior

“When your kid is accused of a serious conduct code violation at his college, you quickly learn that there’s a whole different set of rules in place than in the real world. There are no legal standards, no assurances of a “fair trial.” You're presumed guilty and you have to backtrack and prove why you’re NOT guilty. We pretty quickly realized that we needed strong legal representation and guidance. Our son was completely falsely accused and we were ready to dig in to clear his name.

Felice's truly unique background and deep experience with navigating the school’s process was amazing. She made it clear that our son was the client, not us (his parents). She worked with him extensively and earned his total trust. He felt empowered that he had the right person in his corner to defend him. Felice gave our whole family a sense a calm and confidence.

Thanks to incredibly hard work by Felice and her team, our son was found “not responsible” (meaning innocent of any wrongdoing). The outcome was everything we could have hoped for.

I have already recommended Felice to a friend who’s son was caught up in a serious, very complicated conduct code charge, and I will continue to recommend her to any student or parent without reservation.”

Parent of a private college senior

“I selected the firm after doing extensive research trying to locate an attorney that specializes in sexual assault cases on university campuses. Late one night I emailed her for a consult just to see what she had to say. By 6:30am the next morning she had already emailed me back leaving her information for me to call her. I was impressed by her promptness and early morning response. Our criminal attorney informed our family that this simply wasn’t his specialty and strongly recommended we hire someone who really understood how university disciplinary systems work.

In our culture, we are not often trusting and it took a huge step of faith to consider someone we didn’t know (much less one from out of state) to defend our son.

Based on her collegiate athletic background I felt that she would have a better understanding of our case as our son is a D1 athlete. Based on that and her professional accomplishments I felt like she was driven and determined and she clearly had the ability to understand the laws associated with Title IX.

Bottom line is that our son was found 100% not responsible (meaning not guilty) of the extremely serious charges that were brought against him by a female student.

Felice Duffy and her team were professional, focused, responsive and did a great job throughout the entire stressful ordeal. When we think about how badly and unfairly our son might have been treated by the school, we truly count our blessings that we found Ms. Duffy.”

Parent of a College Sophomore, Ohio

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Schools Where We've Handled Cases

Here are just some of the schools where we’ve represented students, faculty, coaches, and staff:

  • Amherst College
  • Arkansas State University
  • Belmont Abbey College
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Charter Oak State College
  • Colgate University
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Columbia University
  • Connecticut College
  • Creighton Law School
  • Dartmouth College
  • Fairfield University
  • Flagler College
  • Florida State University
  • Furman University
  • Guilford College
  • Howard University
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Indiana University
  • Lesley University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Marist College
  • Marquette University
  • Miami University
  • Mississippi University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Plymouth State University
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rice University
  • Sacred Heart University
  • South Carolina State University
  • St. John's University
  • St. Lawrence University
  • Syracuse University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Tallahassee Comm. College
  • Touro University
  • Trinity College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Lynchburg
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Mass. Med. School
  • University of Miami
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Northern Colorado
  • University of Texas
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
  • University of Wisconsin, Whitewater
  • Utah University School of Medicine
  • Vassar College
  • Virginia Wesleyan University
  • Washington University, St. Louis
  • Wesleyan University
  • Westfield State University
  • Western Washington University
  • Wheaton College
  • William Smith College
  • Yale University

A survivor of sexual assault can pursue either a campus administrative complaint process or a criminal process through the local law enforcement, or both. In order for a survivor to determine if they should proceed with one process or the other, or both, it is important to review the specifics of a case with a Title IX attorney.

A general review of some of the key differences includes the following:

Goals: A criminal investigation is intended to determine if an individual violated a criminal law. The goal is to protect and preserve public safety and to punish individuals who break the law. The goals in a college disciplinary process are education, safety and a safe campus environment.

Governing Law: State statutes/penal codes, rules of criminal procedure as federal criminal law are applied in the criminal justice system. This varies from the disciplinary process which applies Title IX, The Clery Act[1] as amended by the Violence Against Women Act as well as rules that govern specific colleges or universities.

Investigators: A criminal investigation is conducted by police or law enforcement. In a college disciplinary process, the investigation is conducted by individuals who are employed or retained by the college or university.

Parties: The prosecutor and the defendant(accused) are the parties in a criminal trial. The parties in the disciplinary process vary by school. Some institutions consider the school and the respondent (accused) to be the parties while sometimes the reporting individual (survivor) and the respondent(accused) constitute the parties.

• Privacy: A criminal trial is open to the public. Disciplinary proceedings are kept as private as possible although some information is shared. The Office for Civil Rights provides that a “school should take requests for confidentiality seriously, while at the same time considering its responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, including the student who reported the sexual violence.”

• Standard of Evidence: A standard known as “beyond a reasonable doubt”[2] is applied to criminal matters. A lesser standard known as “preponderance of the evidence[3] applies to a violation of a disciplinary rule meaning that the violation was “more likely than not.” Because the standards for pursuing and completing criminal investigations are different from those used for Title IX investigations, the termination of a criminal investigation without an arrest or conviction does not affect the school’s Title IX obligations.

Comparison of a Title IX vs Criminal Proceedings

Title IX Proceedings Criminal Trial
Standard of Proof Varies

Preponderance of Evidence refers to a certainty of guilt that is a feather weight over 50%

Clear and Convincing Evidence is between “Preponderance of Evidence” and “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

“A reasonable doubt exists when a factfinder cannot say with moral certainty that a person is guilty or a particular fact exists. It must be more than an imaginary doubt, and it is often defined judicially as such doubt as would cause a reasonable person to hesitate before acting in a matter of importance.” — Websters

Applicable laws / Deadlines
  • School-specific rules & deadlines
  • These rules may vary from semester to semester.
  • State & Federal laws
  • Deadlines determined at state level
Judgment Makers Administrators

Usually a panel of school employees; may sometimes include students

Appeals In many cases, both parties may appeal a ruling Only the accused can appeal a guilty ruling. No “double-jeopardy” allowed.
Entitled to a lawyer No, some schools may forbid outside counsel (except in cases of sexual assault) Yes, and if you can’t afford one, one will be provided.
Investigators School employees Law enforcement
Rules of Evidence
  • No strict guidelines. Sometimes hearsay and rumors can be used as evidence.
  • Witnesses are not placed under oath. Little to no consequences for lying.
  • Evidence may not be shared with both parties”
  • Very strict rules about what is admissible and what is not
  • Witnesses are placed under oath and can be held accountable for perjury.
  • Evidence is available to both parties”
Consequences & Punishments.

What’s at stake?

  • Sanctions, including expulsion or suspension.
  • Loss of credits.
  • Damaged Reputation.
  • Lost tuition.
  • Criminal penalties such as prison, felony, or sex offender registration.
Ability to cross-examine? Cross-examination is limited or even forbidden altogether. Both parties have the right to cross examine witnesses and evidence

Contact an Experienced National Title IX Attorney

An individual may be prosecuted under a state criminal justice system and disciplined through a college or university disciplinary process. Even if the criminal justice authorities choose not to prosecute, the accused may be subject to university disciplinary action. Disciplinary procedures are considered distinct and independent of any and all criminal procedures and may precede, occur simultaneously, or follow court action. Once a school knows about a sexual assault incident, it must promptly investigate it – within 60 days generally- and, although it may be temporarily suspended to allow for the criminal investigation, it should not be suspended for long- generally about ten days.

The intricacies of both the criminal justice system and the disciplinary process make it necessary to speak to the highly knowledge lawyers at Duffy Law based on their extensive experience with Title IX actions. Duffy Law attorneys are prepared to discuss your situation today by calling 203-946-2000.


[1] http://clerycenter.org/summary-jeanne-clery-act

[2] https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution-conan/amendment-14

[3] https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/preponderance_of_the_evidence

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