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DAVID CLARK
Criminal Defense Attorney

Evidentiary Standards in Philadelphia Campus Sexual Misconduct Cases

The burden of proof in campus sexual misconduct cases is not held to the same rigorous standard as criminal cases. This means that hearsay may be admitted, as well as prior acts of the defendant might be admitted when they are relevant to what is happening in the case before the school. A student who is being charged may not have the same fairness in a hearing just because the evidence that is allowed to come in against them is not something that will be deemed reliable in a criminal courtroom.

Read below to learn more about the evidentiary standards in Philadelphia campus sexual misconduct cases. And if you are facing allegations, contact an experienced campus sexual misconduct lawyer.

Understanding the Preponderance of Evidence

The evidentiary standards in Philadelphia campus sexual misconduct cases follow the preponderance standard. The preponderance standard is whether the incident more likely than not happened. However, under the clear and convincing evidence standard, that is more than 51% and subjectively must be convincing to a degree that it is clear to the fact finder. It is no exact number, but it is more than preponderance and less than beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the criminal law standard for guilt or innocence.

Yes Means Yes and No Means No Laws

The “yes mean yes” laws started as early as 2014 in California. The California governor signed the nation’s first affirmative consent law for colleges to be used in campus sexual assault cases. It established that voluntary affirmative consent, an oral agreement, was needed to engage in sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. It goes on to describe what does and does not constitute consent in these situations. In addition, it clarified that a person incapacitated by drugs or alcohol or not fully awake is not able to give consent.

All of these changes to the law are as the California Governor added on to the existing body of criminal laws protecting people already. That changed what needs to be proven, and what kind of evidence needs to be shown in college sexual assault cases. In these kinds of cases, there could be many signs and evidence presented of implicit consent, such as various indications that the party was okay moving forward into sexual activity. However, under a “yes means yes” type standard, there is one piece of evidence that is really important which is the affirmative statement that the parties orally agreed out loud to consent to have sexual interactions. Raising a defense of consent in these jurisdictions is very difficult without specific proof or agreement on the fact that this statement was made and heard by both parties.

This new law is similar and different from “no means no” law in some ways. The law still stands that at any time someone can revoke consent by saying, no, they do not want to wish to go any further and that they wish to stop. That means a lack of consent is immediately effective, and the person is supposed to stop all sexual conduct immediately. However, that does not require them to prove in those kinds of cases that the person has gotten a clear signal of no and being told to stop. The student may not know that this is required because this is not the Pennsylvania law as it stands. It might just be a student code or student law, which can get them in trouble with a student disciplinary board, but not necessarily with the Pennsylvania law as it is written.

How Low Evidentiary Standards Can Harm Innocent Defendants

When the standards of evidence are lowered, and more things are allowed to be presented without proper standards of authenticity and reliability, it can lead to innocent people having unfair evidence pile up against them. This also allows unreliable evidence or unexamined evidence to be admitted against them such as witness statements presented without a chance to cross-examine the witnesses themselves. This can lead to the wrong people being found to be responsible for sexual crimes. Defendants facing these allegations should reach out to an accomplished defense attorney right away.

Importance of Obtaining an Attorney

When individuals are facing a lower standard, it is especially important to have an attorney because there is an even higher chance they will be found responsible for the allegations. A lawyer who is knowledgeable about the evidentiary standards in Philadelphia campus sexual misconduct cases could help you. Call an attorney today.