When a college student is accused of misconduct, the consequences can be devastating. Universities are required to investigate claims against students, which can result in suspension, expulsion, criminal charges, and other disciplinary actions. If the accused student's rights aren't protected, innocent college students can be wrongfully suspended or expelled, and those disciplinary actions can follow them for the rest of their academic careers.
There are generally two types of university investigations: sexual and non-sexual. The reason we break student misconduct claims down into these two categories is that Title IX often applies to cases involving sexual misconduct allegations. In non-sexual cases, such as academic dishonesty (cheating) or theft on campus, the university's applicable "student code of conduct" will usually apply.
For example, at Northern Arizona University (NAU) near our law firm in Flagstaff, there is a Title IX coordinator for sexual misconduct claims and a separate set of procedures for students accused of non-sexual violations of the NAU Student Code of Conduct. University investigations are generally conducted through the Office of Dean of Students and the Vice President of Student Affairs.
Here are four important things every college student in Arizona should know.
1. Disciplinary investigations can be used in criminal prosecutions
University disciplinary investigations are administrative in nature. However, anything you say during the university investigation can be used against you in a criminal case. Many cases involving student discipline also involve the police. For example, if a college student is accused of sexual assault, the university will investigate and the campus police will also investigate. The student can be expelled from school but can also be prosecuted and sentenced to prison. Therefore, before a college student makes any statements during the university disciplinary process, consultation with an attorney is extremely important to protect the student's rights, before it's too late.
2. Your silence can be used against you
In a criminal case, you have the right to remain silent, and your silence cannot be used against you. But in a Title IX investigation, or student code of conduct investigation, you do not have the right to remain silent. If you refuse to cooperate with the investigation, your silence and lack of cooperation can be used against you.
It's important to remember that the right to silence applies in criminal cases, and university investigations are administrative matters. That's why you don't have the same rights in student disciplinary investigations. However, if you agree to cooperate, then your statements in the university investigation can be sent to the police and used against you in a criminal prosecution.
Seem fair? No, it doesn't. It's what we call a legal minefield. You should talk to a lawyer before you agree to make statements to a university investigator, Title IX investigator, or the campus police. Even though you don't have certain constitutional rights in the university investigation, you do have the right to due process and fundamental fairness under current Arizona law.
3. You always have the right to counsel
A student being investigated by their university has the right to have a lawyer during every stage of the process. There are numerous ways a lawyer can help you during a Title IX or university investigation in Arizona. The student's rights can be carefully protected, while at the same time, the student can take appropriate steps to defend against the allegations without ruining their academic career.
4. In Arizona, being expelled from one university may cost you at others
If you are expelled or suspended at a public university in Arizona, you may be precluded from enrolling at other state universities. For example, if a college student at Northern Arizona University is suspended for 2 years, then that student may be unable to apply to the University of Arizona and Arizona State University during the suspension period.
And it gets even worse. If you're not careful, the university may "freeze" your academic transcript. If you apply to any other school (even outside of Arizona), you won't be able to access your transcript for the application, which means you won't get in.
Contact Our Arizona Title IX Attorneys Today To Protect Your Student Rights
As you can see, university investigations can ruin academic careers and disrupt lives. Even more concerning, university investigations can result in criminal prosecutions, felony convictions, and life-altering consequences. Under Arizona law, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, we can help university students navigate the legal minefield and get back on track to achieving their academic goals. Contact our experienced Arizona Title IX attorneys today.