UW-Madison focused on sexual assault prosecution and prevention

College students at UW—Madison accused of sexual assault are facing significant consequences.

The spotlight on sexual assault on college campuses remains as strong as ever. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is no exception. Susan Riseling, Chief of Police and Associate Vice Chancellor at the University of Wisconsin, has taken a lead role on Title IX requirements regarding sexual harassment and violence at universities and colleges nationwide. UW-Madison has also focused recently on improving its sexual assault prevention and response programs.

Do students receive a fair and impartial hearing?

Allegations of sexual assault on college campuses can be devastating. Any time a person is accused of sexual assault there are consequences, regardless of the outcome of an investigation. In addition, UW-Madison Police, the Dean of Students, and University Housing all have reporting obligations regarding sexual assaults that occur on campus.

For criminal defendants, there are certain protections provided by the legal system. For one, the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For students, however, campus investigations may not have any such threshold to meet. A student can be expelled after an allegation of sexual assault regardless of the outcome of a criminal matter or campus investigation. Concerns over students obtaining a fair hearing have prompted several members of Congress to introduce legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives addressing the issue.

Among its other provisions, the bill would mandate that students can hire representation to aid them in getting the truth out and protect themselves in potential future criminal proceedings. This is vital, as evidence obtained during campus investigations can subsequently be used by police and state prosecutors. There is no need for campus investigators to read a student Miranda rights, in which suspects are advised that anything they say can be used against them in a court of law.

A recent case out of the University of Wisconsin provides a good example. In that case, a student denied charges of sexual assault to police. During a subsequent disciplinary hearing at the school, however, the student allegedly admitted that he regretted the incident for which he was under investigation. This was enough of a conflict that police subpoenaed the records of the hearing and used it as evidence against the student in the subsequent criminal case.

Representation is important

If you have ever been under criminal investigation or charged with a crime, you are likely aware of your need to protect your rights. A single misstep can have lifetime consequences when it comes to allegations of sexual assault. Yet students may not be aware of their due process rights when under investigation by campus police or that they have the right to speak to an attorney.

Preventing sexual assault from occurring is a worthwhile endeavor. But the goal of reducing sexual assaults on campus can be accomplished without violating the rights of innocent students.

If you have been accused of sexual assault, you need a strong defense. At Nicholson, Gansner & Otis, our attorneys will ensure your rights are protected throughout criminal investigations and ensure you are aware of your legal rights and options. Contact our office to discuss your situation.