Consent in College Sex Crime Cases in DC

Although it may seem straightforward, consent can often be the difference in sex crimes cases. With this in mind, the following is information on what constitutes consent, how consent is established, and the difference between consent in the criminal justice system and on college campuses. To learn more about consent or to begin building a defense for your charge, call and schedule a consultation with a DC student defense lawyer today.

What is Consent?

Consent is defined as words or conduct that indicate a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or participate in some kind of sexual activity or sexual contact. Consent, either verbal or nonverbal, is required for any sexual act or sexual contact. An act is considered without consent if there is no verbal or nonverbal consent that is clearly given by all parties involved. If a sexual act or sexual contact is committed on a person who is unconscious or reasonably appears to be without the capacity to consent, then it is presumed that that sexual contact or sexual act is without consent.

Consent must be informed, meaning that a person has to be able to communicate and agree on the type of sexual activities that will take place. Consent needs to be given each time sexual activity occurs, so a student cannot claim that consent was given for future activities simply because it was given for a previous activity.

Consent must be given freely and it cannot be assumed based on a past sexual relationship.

Who Determines Whether an Act is Consensual?

When an accusation of non-consensual sexual acts has been made, then the person making the accusation has to be able to show that there was a lack of consent in that situation. If the other participant or the accused claims that there was consent or that he or she believed that there was consent, then the accused needs to be able to show that his personal belief that consent was present was reasonable. Just believing that the other party or parties consented is not sufficient; that person needs to be able to show that his or her belief was reasonable under the circumstances.

Consent on College Campuses

The burden of proof is very different in a university setting compared to a criminal setting. In a criminal case, when an accuser alleges sexual assault, the government prosecutor must prove lack of consent beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is a reasonable doubt as to the accuser’s claim that she did not consent, then the judge or jury must find the defendant not guilty. In a university setting, the burden of proof on the accuser is lower. Although each university determines their specific burden, it is becoming more common for universities to adopt a preponderance or “more likely than not” standard whereby the accuser simply needs to show it is more likely that she did not consent, as compared to the respondent’s claim that the accuser did consent.

How an Attorney Can Investigate Consent in DC Sex Crime Cases

A lawyer can help a student investigate the allegations made against him or her and determine whether or not there is any evidence that is inconsistent, any evidence that seems unreliable, or any evidence that can be countered by other witnesses or other types of evidence. Being able to fully investigate and respond to allegations can assist a student in responding to allegations of a violation of a student code of conduct within the university but can also possibly help the student respond to any possible criminal charges that may arise out of the same allegations.