Stalking defense lawyer in St. Louis, Missouri. If you’ve been accused of stalking at your college or university, you need an experienced and dedicated Title IX defense lawyer to defend your rights. At Combs Law, we know how to fight back against unfair or unsupported allegations, and how to lessen or even eliminate the scholastic consequences you may face. We know that people can often assume the worst, or that situations can get out of hand. Our St. Louis, MO stalking defense lawyers will listen to your side of the story, and work to get the most favorable resolution possible in your case. Speak to a defense attorney today at (314) 900-HELP or contact us online for a free consultation.
What is Title IX?
Title IX was part of the Education Amendments of 1972, and seeks to protect students in universities and colleges from discrimination based on sex. The text reads:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Through various Supreme Court rulings, Title IX has been interpreted to include protection from various types of sexual violence and sexual misconduct including sexual assault, sexual harassment and stalking. Because of this, schools are required to investigate alleged or suspected sex crimes, or risk losing their federal funding. Because they could lose their funding, schools are strongly incentivized to investigate and punish someone accused, even if the evidence doesn’t indicate that the allegations occurred, or occurred as the accuser alleges.
What Constitutes Stalking as a Title IX Violation in St. Louis, MO?
Each school has its own Title IX coordinator and guidelines which set their own definitions and their own investigative processes. The University of Missouri System defines stalking as:
engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to–(A) fear for their safety or the safety of others; or (B) suffer substantial emotional distress.
Section 600.020 of the University of Missouri code goes on to say that the course of action has “no legitimate purpose.”
While each school has its own definitions, most of them are pretty similar. Common accusations of stalking include:
- Repeated and unwanted communication by phone, text, email, social media, or other means
- Waiting for someone at their place of work, after class or somewhere else an alleged stalker may know they will be
- Repeatedly sending someone unwanted presents or items
- Making direct or indirect threats to someone, their family, their friends or their pets
- Damaging or threatening to damage someone’s property
- Spreading rumors or revealing information about someone through social media or word of mouth
- Obtaining personal information about someone by searching online, going through trash, hiring private investigators or contacting their friends or family
- Watching or taking pictures of someone without their knowledge
Generally, stalking does not constitute a one-time action, but is a repeated pattern of behavior. At Combs Law, our St. Louis, MO stalking defense lawyers know that certain actions can be misinterpreted, or that situations can go farther than one intended. We also know that some schools can be over-zealous in investigating and punishing someone who is accused of sexual misconduct. We are compassionate and discrete. We will listen to your side of the story and work to show the accusations are untrue or paint your actions in a different light. If you engaged in a series of behavior you now regret, we’ll work with school officials to get you the best possible resolution for your future.
What Happens If I’m Accused of Stalking At My Missouri School?
As each school has its own guidelines and procedures, how the investigation proceeds can vary greatly. Whatever school you go to, your life is not over, and you still deserve to have someone by your side to fight for you. A Title IX proceeding is not a criminal investigation, so your right to know the details of the allegations, to know who your accuser is, to cross-examine witnesses and to have your defense attorney speak for you may not apply, depending on your school’s policies. But, you still have rights, and you still need a stalking defense lawyer for the best possible results.
At some point, you will be interviewed by school officials and eventually have a hearing. Federal guidelines still give you certain rights, including a thorough and impartial investigation, the ability to respond and present witnesses and evidence and the right to have an advisor or support person present at all interviews and meetings (which can be your attorney). While your St. Louis, MO defense attorney may or may not be able to speak on your behalf, we will prep you with what to say and what not to say. We will also:
- Listen to your side of the story
- Answer the phone whenever you call, day or night
- Investigate the claims, and try to find alibis or eyewitnesses that contradict the accusations
- Ensure the school stays true to federal law and Title IX policies
- If possible, negotiate with the school’s attorneys for a favorable resolution without the need for a hearing
- Handle all legal aspects and communication, so you can focus on your mental health
If the school’s policies or procedures violate federal guidelines, we can file formal complaints and even, if necessary, a lawsuit to force them to be fair.
One of the difficulties of a Title IX investigation is that the accusations do not have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The school just has to believe that it’s more likely than not the allegations are true. That’s why a diligent, experienced and dedicated Title IX defense lawyer is so vital to your future.
Can Stalking Accusations Lead to Criminal Charges in Missouri?
While stalking is also a criminal offense, it is separate from a Title IX investigation, and the school’s investigation cannot land you in jail or put anything on your criminal record. A university and an accuser are not required to notify police of alleged stalking, but they may if they wish to, and if the police learn about it they can subpoena the school’s records. There are two degrees of stalking under Missouri law:
- First-Degree Stalking (RSMo §565.225) — Someone can be charged with first-degree stalking if they purposely, through a course of conduct (two or more actions), follows someone or acts in a way that would cause a “reasonable person” to be “frightened, intimidated or emotionally distressed;” and:
- Makes a threat making the person reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of their family or animals; or:
- The actions violated a protective order; or
- The actions constituted a probation violation; or
- The alleged stalker is 21 or older, and the alleged victim is under 17 years old or younger; or
- The alleged stalker has previous been convicted of domestic assault, violated a protection order, or any crime where the accuser was the victim
- The alleged victim was part of the Address Confidentiality Program, and the alleged stalker tried to access their address
If convicted, first-degree stalking is a class E felony for a first attempt. It becomes a class D felony if it’s a second stalking conviction, or if the alleged victim was a law enforcement officer, or a family member of a law enforcement officer.
- Second-Degree Stalking (RSMo §565.227) — Second-degree stalking occurs if someone purposely disturbs another person, or follows them with the intent to disturb.
In convicted, second-degree stalking is a class A misdemeanor, or a class E felony if it’s a second stalking conviction, or if the alleged victim was a law enforcement officer, or a family member of a law enforcement officer.
The St. Louis, MO stalking defense lawyers at Combs Law are skilled criminal defense attorneys in addition to taking on Title IX cases. We know how to work a courtroom and, if we can’t get your charges reduced or dismissed, are not afraid to go to trial and fight for a not-guilty verdict.
Protect Your Future With Combs Law’s St. Louis, MO Stalking Defense Lawyers
The consequences of a Title IX investigation can be far-reaching. If found guilty, your punishment could be anything from mandatory counseling, to banishment from certain activities, to suspension or even expulsion. In addition to potential criminal charges, your reputation and future career prospects could be affected. But it is important to remember that you still have a future, and help is available for you. Our skilled Title IX defense lawyers in St. Louis, MO know how to investigate cases and fight back against unsupported accusations. For a confidential, no-obligation consultation, call our office today at (314) 900-HELP or contact us online.