Over the course of the last twenty-five years, I’ve represented many students who have been charged with sex-related offenses either occurring on-campus or off-campus. These cases are particularly troubling because if you are convicted of a sex-related offense in addition to all the penalties that come along with it at the criminal level, it can cause you to be kicked out of your school, obviously cause you problems getting into another school and can affect your future because of the conviction and the ramifications that come along with sex offense cases. And I tell you, I’ve seen a lot of these cases are more than meets the eye. Sometimes there is alcohol involved and the party that’s being accused of a sex offense really didn’t do anything wrong and is being accused for various reasons that are dissociated with criminal conduct
For example, a lot of times two individuals will get drunk at a party. Maybe they know each other, maybe they don’t know each other. One thing will lead to another, they’ll end up in a room together, they’ll be kissing and then something sexual will happen and then the other party wakes up and somehow thinks something wrong has happened to them. Either they have a boyfriend and now they feel guilty, or they can’t remember what happened because they drank so much. That doesn’t necessarily mean that anything inappropriate happened from a criminal context. Really, what it boils down to is consent. If somebody consented or it appeared they consented based on their acts and the circumstances surrounding the meeting between the two parties – that’s not a criminal case and it shouldn’t be charged criminally.
A lot of times in addition to looking at criminal charges, the person is looking at expulsion from school based on a bunch of allegations that simply aren’t fair under the circumstances. I mean, that’s really where you have to get an attorney who has done these cases before so they can best advise you on how to deal with both the criminal aspect of it – dealing with the police, the criminal case – and also what you should do and say when it relates to your school and defending yourself there and trying to avoid being expelled from school and all the other potential ramifications that come along with that.
What are some Defenses when it Comes to Student-Related Sex Allegations?
Well, obviously one defense is consent. If somebody agrees or consents to the subject activity, then obviously that’s not a crime. That’s just really a factual scenario as to whether or not somebody agreed to a particular activity. So, there’s no cookie-cutter approach to this. You’ve got to look at the facts and circumstances surrounding what happened, why you believe that charges were filed against you, whether the person had some sort of improper motive or bias against you and this is where you get your list of questions together. You get all the details the best that you can remember, and you sit down with your criminal defense attorney and you give them all the details about what happened. Don’t omit anything or put a spin on anything. Really tell them the truth so they can best help you in formulating either a plan to defend you completely, or a plan for damage control so that you can preserve some of your valuable rights, like your reputation, your freedom, your future, your record, and all the things that are going to be important to you moving forward.
So, some of the defenses that are available kind of spin on the facts of the case. You may have some witnesses who saw certain things that are inconsistent with what the alleged victim is now saying. You may have some other physical evidence that’s inconsistent with what the alleged victim is now saying. There are all sorts of things that can be done to defend you, but your best strategy is to have somebody on your side who has done these types of cases before and once they hear your version of events can guide you through what is a perilous system at times.
So, what I have people do, you come into the office, we sit down under the cloak of the attorney-client privilege and then that person gives me all the details of what happened and then I let them know what they’re facing, what type of a strategy that we should have, what they can do to help, what I’m going to do to help them. And then we’re both moving forward on the same page in the direction that is going to be the best for that particular person, under those particular circumstances. So, if you’re charged with a sex-related offense and you’re a student on a college campus, a high school campus or any type of a school setting, these types of cases are particularly difficult to deal with. Another problem is the authorities sometimes are not that sophisticated – campus police, administrators – they don’t know what to do in these types of cases and a lot of times they jump to conclusions and don’t handle things fairly. So, getting your version of events across in the most professional way is a key strategy – and obviously you’re going to want to do that with the guidance of a trained seasoned criminal defense attorney.