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Are sexual assault investigations procedurally unfair?

A number of procedural protections are in place for victims of sexual assault, including confidentiality during the investigative stage. Yet are the accused afforded such rights?

In theory, every criminal defendant has a constitutional right to procedural due process and a fair criminal trial. A criminal defendant has the right to confront his accusers and hold the prosecutors to their burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Until proven guilty, an accused should also be presumed innocent.

Unfortunately, the reality is that even an allegation of sexual assault may result in damages, as illustrated in a recent story. According to a recently filed lawsuit, a former Indiana University student claims that the school denied him procedural due process after a female student accused him of sexual assault. Although a state court dropped the criminal charge for insufficient evidence, the student was still expelled.

In addition to his constitutional argument, the student claims that the school violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The student has also named his accuser as a defendant in the lawsuit, as well as several school officials and staff, asserting additional claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A sexual assault allegation should not result in immediate consequences, such as losing one’s job or damaging one’s reputation. Rather than trial by public opinion or gender-based assumption, the criminal justice system should run its course.

An accused deserves to have a fair trial. We interpret that constitutional right as a proceeding where prosecutors may rely on only lawfully obtained evidence, and where an accused is presumed innocent. Our criminal defense law firm also understands the importance of reviewing a criminal record for any procedural due process violations. Our website describes our approach to criminal defense in greater detail.

Source: Indy Star, “Former IU student accused of rape sues school, accuser for defamation,” Fatima Hussein, Dec. 26, 2016

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