Did colleges and universities overreact to the sexual assault crisis on campuses across the nation?
According to student defense attorney Shanlon Wu, a former prosecutor who used to prosecute sexual assault cases, it’s more of an “overcorrection” that eliminates a lot of protections for the accused that they would usually get in a court of law.
Wu shared his thoughts in an opinion piece for The Washington Post.
“I know firsthand that prosecutors and police both consider sexual assault investigations to be among the most difficult cases to investigate and prosecute,” Wu wrote.
Wu explained that police and prosecutors are wary when it comes to sexual assault cases involving college students, particularly because there’s often alcohol involved with one or both parties to the case.
If alcohol was a factor, the victim could be rendered an ineffective witness, which could significantly weaken the case.
When colleges and universities responded to the sexual assault crisis, many of them implemented policies that were based on recommendations from a White House Task Force report that addressed sexual assaults on campus.
Those recommendations that turned into policies on campuses nationwide mean that almost every time there is a sexual assault allegation, it will go to a hearing with campus administrators, without being vetted by a prosecutor or experienced law enforcement.
“Going forward to a hearing in a campus sexual assault case means that these complex and difficult cases are most often decided by panels of students and administrator/faculty representatives who function as both judge and jury,” Wu said.
These student and faculty panels are supposed to have extensive training on understanding sexual assault cases, but there are no guidelines for who conducts the training and how effective the training is.
Wu argues that even if the students and faculty had extensive training, it’s not enough for them to adjudicate such convoluted cases.
At many of these hearings, lawyers are not allowed to speak on behalf of a student who is accused of sexual assault, so the accused does not get as much protection as he or she would if the case were being heard in a courtroom.
Wu believes every sexual assault allegation should be investigated, but not every sexual assault case has merit. Some don’t have enough evidence to go through with a hearing, but that doesn’t stop colleges and universities from having them.
If you or someone you know is a college student who has been accused of a crime on campus, it’s imperative that you find an experienced defense attorney. Contact Shan Wu today for help.