August 26, 2019

Labor Day: Enjoy Summer’s Last Blast Without an OUI

The summer is winding to a close. The kids are heading back to college and soon the neighborhood school bells will be ringing. In these waning days of summer many of us are looking forward to a last big outdoor gathering to enjoy Labor Day celebrations. Food, friends and family are at the heart of these wonderful events, but as you toast to another great summer, remember that those drinks should be consumed in moderation. There’s no reason to spoil your summer swansong with an OUI. If you choose to indulge, plan ahead: make sure to have a designated driver, plans to stay the night or a taxi or ride share to bring you home. An OUI will ruin more than your weekend.

If you do drink and choose to drive, you risk being stopped. In addition to being stopped because the police think you are impaired, holiday weekends also often include random checkpoints where everyone is asked to stop. If you find yourself being stopped for an OUI, be smart. When you are stopped, the police officer has a mental checklist to evaluate you even before he or she gets to your car window:

  • how you pull your car over
  • what you do after you are pulled over
  • how easily you find your registration and retrieve your license
  • how coherent you seem once you begin to interact with the officer

If you are stopped, we strongly advise our clients to refuse to take any sobriety tests. The breathalyzer – which for a time recently was not admissible in Massachusetts courts – is again admissible. If you refuse to take the breathalyzer you will immediately forfeit your license for a time, but if your case needs to go to court, the jury will not know that you refused the breathalyzer and there will be no evidence against you.

If you or a family member or friend needs legal advice or help with an OUI charge call or text us. Contant Law – (617) 227-8383.

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August 7, 2019

Introducing Our New Podcast: In Your Court, Episode 1: A Crash Course in Title IX

Contant Law is proud to announce our new podcast, In Your Court. In Your Court focuses on protecting the legal rights of kids including juveniles, young adults, college bound students or those already on a college campus. We’ve created In Your Court to help parents, guardians and kids understand laws the that are most relevant to those growing up and gaining freedoms.

The first episode of In Your Court is a crash course in Title IX. It is vitally important that college students – both young men and young women – know the law and know their rights when it comes to Title IX. There are potential serious consequences of being accused of a Title IX violation. We urge you to take a few minutes out of your summer to listen to this very important episode of In Your Court before you – or your child – heads back to college this fall. Most students have no idea what Title IX is about or how serious an accusation a Title IX violation can be. Listen, learn and head back to campus better informed; just in case.

Mike Contant of Contant Law is in your court to help you, inform you and protect your rights via straight talk and real situations. Have a listen to the first episode of In Your Court; better still, share the link with a college student in your life so they can learn their rights.

If you’ve been accused of a Title IX violation or need legal help of any kind, don’t try to go it alone, call or text us. Contant Law 617-227-8383.

Put Contant in your contacts.

August 7, 2019

Episode 2: How to Have the Title IX Talk

In this episode, Mike speaks directly to parents and guardians about the other topic they need to talk to their kids about in addition to drinking, drugs, texting and sex. This episode informs parents and guardians of college students what they need to know about Title IX to protect their student and his or her rights.

Transcript

Welcome to In Your Court. Today’s episode How to Have the Title IX Talk in this episode, Mike speaks directly to parents and guardians about another important topic they need to talk to their kids about. In addition to drinking, drugs, texting and sex. You know most parents think Title IX is only about equality in women’s athletics Mike’s goal in this episode is to help parents understand Title IX laws and their relevance today on college campuses.

There are significant risks to a college student’s future if a Title IX infraction isn’t addressed immediately and correctly from the start. Hello, I’m Jordan Rich and I’m very pleased to be back with Mike Contant an attorney whose firm, Contant Law, specializes in criminal defense and Title IX defense. Protecting the rights of the accused in Massachusetts. Well Mike, thanks for joining us today. Title IX. It’s evolved since the early days when it had to do with athletics women and sports equality and so forth. I did a lot of reading on Title IX fascinating to see where it’s come. This is something that you are focusing on now because there is a need and we’re talking to parents who are concerned for their kids and their futures in college. Why have you taken on this role?

MC: As a criminal defense lawyer for 20 years, I’ve seen some of these cases come through and we started doing these a few years ago. It’s extremely important for parents and the kids to understand their rights under Title IX as well as what can happen to them. They pay all this money for college education. Kids work for years and years and years in grade school to keep their grades up to get into a great college to help get their future on the right track. The future can quickly detracted from that track if they don’t do the right things in college right.

So, the idea is we want to help people make sure that that investment the investment of time and money over the years is protected should there be any allegations of a Title IX violation in these days.

JR: It’s more important than ever for folks who are sending their kids off to school to know enough about this area to have that talk and to actually bring up the term Title IX so that the kids are aware of it. What advice do you have to begin with for parents before they send their kids off to school these days?

MC: The parents should have a very clear understanding of what it means. Any allegations that Title IX can have on the on the student. They will be covered by the student in orientation; it is a requirement that they least talk about it. But most kids don’t remember it. What happened was told new orientation. So it’s helpful for the parents to have an understanding as well so that when their son or daughter hopefully calls them and says we got this I got this notice in the mail  and Susie saying I did this to her on this date but I really don’t remember doing anything or doing anything wrong. What do I do next? They, the parents, have an idea ok, this is very serious. We need to get in touch with somebody.

JR: So, it’s really about sexual confrontation but a lot of it has to do with the drugs and the alcohol. And we all know as parents that that’s a dangerous combination. By the way we were all students once ourselves, but this was important for parents to consider all three of those issues isn’t it.

MC: It is, because drinking alcohol often contribute to these allegations. Most of the cases we see coming through. There was some substance involved such as alcohol or drugs. Some person claiming that they were intoxicated to the point where they couldn’t consent. They don’t remember doing things. Sometimes it’s both parties but it’s almost always involved in these types of allegations.

JR: Obviously, we’d like to prevent things from getting to that point. Is there enough information out there in general for people to have that talk or they can lean on people like yourself of course for information?

MC: Certainly, yes, online these days you are going to find a lot more information as it’s becoming a much bigger topic particularly in the news these days with Secretary of Education Betsy De Vos recently promulgating new regulations to help bring the process to one of greater fairness. There’s a lot of that in the media now turning such as myself. We’ve tried to make as much information available on our website to educate people about the process. We have pretty detailed articles on their talking about what it means to be accused of a Title IX violation usually involving some type of sexual assault or sexual harassment dating violence things of that nature stalking. I spent a lot of time going through and in general terms what’s required and if it’s had online in the process so that people have a greater understanding is just what’s coming up what’s involved.

JR: Mike are the parents automatically notified or is it strictly to the student and then it’s up to the student to notify the parent?

MC: It’s up to the student to notify the parents of the students in most cases are adults. Almost everyone going to college is 18 or older.

JR: So, it’s conceivable that a student will not even tell his or her parents?

MC:  Correct if they wait too long, they may try to get across on their own sweep it under the rug. They’re not thinking of the worst-case scenario that their parents might be. So it is important to talk to your kids about the process so that they understand that hey, if you get a letter like this saying that someone claimed you sexually assaulted them in some way harassed them, you stalked them them that you need to get in touch with us right away so that we can help you and guide you to a greater understanding.

JR: And you mentioned worst case scenarios; it can really damage a person’s future if they don’t tend to this and have something in place to help them.

MC: Yes. It goes on the parent education records so that if they’re applying to grad schools if they are seeking certain jobs in the future all of that can be put at risk by having this type of discipline on your record. It can be anywhere from probation to suspension all the way through expulsion.

JR: As we said Mike, in our accompanying podcast aimed at young people at the students, your role as an attorney here, it’s not like going to court and facing the judge and having all the rules in place. This is more an advisory capacity that you’re offering right?

MC: That’s correct. Our job at this time the way Title IX is structured is, our role is not as an attorney but as an advisor. We help the person get them through the investigation we will conduct a parallel investigation will help them prepare any written statements required to prepare, we go with them to any hearings assist and advise at hearings at meetings with any school personnel. That’s essentially what we’re allowed to do right now we want to do much more.

JR: And as you said there are regulations in flux things that might be changing in that regard.

MC: Correct. In November more formalized regulations were put forth. They have not been approved yet. These will make the process more akin to – not exactly like it – but more akin to a criminal trial where all schools required to give the accused greater rights they have to have the ability to have an attorney act in the capacity that an attorney usually acts in essentially speaking on the person’s behalf advocating, cross-examining witnesses; more what people are used to seeing in the realm of a criminal trial.

And one thing I did want to point out as well. Title IX is a civil matter it’s a school discipline matter

JR: That’s right.

MC: It’s private it’s not police getting involved in most circumstances, however, the conduct involved if it is as some sort of assaultive behavior some sort of harassing or stalking behavior can quickly turn into criminal charges. It’s really important that we really frame what the student is saying and not saying to make sure they’re protected should criminal charges either be sought or if they’ve already been sought. One misunderstanding that people have is they think, “OK, well if there was a criminal charge, they’ll wait for the criminal trial is over before they do anything under Title IX.” It’s just the opposite.

They do not halt a Title IX proceeding in order to wait to see what happens in criminal court.  They continue with it and quite frankly oftentimes I’ve seen prosecutors obtain information such as written statements, recorded statements of the defendant of the person the accused in the Title IX proceeding to help prosecute them in the state court. So, it’s really important to have someone who understands both the criminal aspects as well as the civil aspects of it all to make sure that the student’s rights are protected in general.

JR: There are some other misconceptions that come up when parents are thinking about these issues and maybe not as aware of what they should know and it involves for one thing the fact that schools can sort of pattern the Title IX to fit their own school policy. Am I right?

MC: In a way. So, there are certain requirements in any Title IX case that have to be within the policy. But schools are not only allowed to, but required to have their own policy specific to their school as long as it follows the Title IX guidelines and that’s what’s interesting too, is the guidelines are very loose. So there’s just a few things that have to be in there in order to be compliant with the Title IX guidelines but otherwise the school can fashion their set up however they want. Public schools for instance, are required to give the person what they call greater due process, which is greater notice in hearing rights versus a private school who oftentimes won’t have any sort of a hearing at all they’ll have what they call a single investigator model where that person actually does all the fact finding there is no true hearing they make a recommendation to the school based upon what they believe is guilt or innocence as well as what those sanctions should be which oftentimes is just rubber stamped by the Title IX coordinator at the school. So, it’s almost like one person acting as judge jury and executioner

JR: Perhaps the most upsetting thing when someone’s caught up in this and is accused is the interruption to their life in school. And one of the things that you pride yourself on is trying to make it safer and more likely that they’re going to be able to get through their education while this process is going on.

MC: Certainly. There will be certain things put into place once the process begins. They may be asked to leave campus. They may be restricted from going to certain classes. They’re certainly going to be restricted from contacting whoever the accuser is and some of the witnesses in the case. But the idea is that we want to get involved to make the process as smooth as possible hopefully to keep them in school versus having them – some interim measures involve an immediate suspension from school for a period of time. Our job is to try and not only make the process more the but also heat through education going at the same time. It’s not always possible that that’s what he’s trying to do.

JR: And Mike, this is a perfect time to pose this idea. Your job is not just numbers and facts and figures and case study it’s really helping people through a tough human situation isn’t it.

MC: I’ve always said that our job, that the actual legal work we do is one part of it. The other part is reducing people’s stress. These situations that come up whether it be criminal charges or a Title IX violation involve an inordinate amount of stress on the person. This weight even if they haven’t done anything, there’s still this feeling of shame and embarrassment that they don’t want to tell the world about. And the idea from our aspect is to educate the people. Make them understand the process helped take some of that weight away from them and decrease that stress in any way we can.

That’s what we’ve always tried to do and that’s always been what I consider to be a very large part of our job.

JR: Thanks so much Mike. Parents and guardians for more information about Contant Law and Title IX defense you can visit w w w dot Contant dash law dot com and you can follow Conant Law on Facebook, Twitter, and connect with them via Linked In. For specific questions email info at content dash law dot com. We hope you found this informative and we encourage you to share this with others to help increase the awareness of what Title IX is and its relevance in today’s world. Please read and review this episode and subscribe for additional episodes to stay informed and protect your loved ones including juveniles and young adults and their legal rights.

Thank you for listening. All episodes are available on all platforms.

We look forward to having you back for future episodes.

August 1, 2019

Episode 1: A Crash Course in Title IX

In this episode, Mike speaks directly to parents and guardians about the other topic they need to talk to their kids about in addition to drinking, drugs, texting and sex. This episode informs parents and guardians of college students what they need to know about Title IX to protect their student and his or her rights.

Transcript

Jordan Rich: Welcome to In Your Court. Today’s Episode is “A Crash Course in Title IX” Attorney Mike Conant explains Title IX and why it’s so important today that college students know the law and are educated on the potential serious consequences of being accused of a Title IX violation. This is Jordan Rich and I’m pleased to introduce you to Mike Contant an attorney whose firm, Contant Law, specializes in criminal defense and Title IX defense, protecting the rights of the accused in Massachusetts. Mike, good to see you

Mike Contant: Nice to see you, Jordan

JR: OK, Let’s talk about title IX and a bit of the history of it; some people may have the impression that it is only about sports and athletics and it’s not. Give us a little background.

MC: So, Title IX came out in 1972. It basically requires any educational institution receiving federal assistance any type of federal funding to give everyone equal educational benefits. It was originally, most people understand it to be originally used to make sure there’s equal funding in women’s sports.

JR: Right, Right. And it has to do with civil rights initially, right?

MC: It does, yeah.

JR: We’re addressing young people who are either students now or about to be students in college, let’s say. Why is this so important? Why should they know about this going in?

MC: Title IX it can be very serious it can have a very adverse effect on your college career if you don’t understand the system and how it works. These days, Title IX has shifted and basically since the late 1990s ah, they shifted the focus away from just women’s sports and things like that and started using it as a disciplinary procedure for anyone accused of either sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence or otherwise discriminating against someone on the basis of sex. They found that it essentially deprives someone of equal access to education if they are somehow being discriminated this way, harassed or otherwise assaulted in this way.

JR: So, Title IX, is “invoked” when something like this happens on campus?

MC: That’s correct, it’s a violation of Title IX for these things to occur. Which has been the interpretation like I said, really starting in about 1997.

JR: Now, before we talk about how we can help people when they’re caught up in this, what can happen to a student?

MC: It’s a disciplinary procedure it can go anything from a probationary period all the way through expulsion. It does appear on the student’s permanent record; so, if they apply to other schools, so for instance this applies oftentimes to people who are seeking grad school, you know, medical, law school, etc. it’s going to show up in their college transcript as well as in their educational record. It’s denied a lot of people the opportunity to seek that type of advanced education. It also can affect their prospects to obtain jobs if they were to do a background check into their college record.

JR: SO the future can be dramatically altered with just one incident?

MC: Absolutely.

JR: OK. That’s why we’re gonna focus on what you can do about it and what you can provide. Wed love an example of a recent case – no names of course – but talk us through the processes and how it works.

MC: Sure. The processes are interesting because most people think of alright so there’s a disciplinary procedure I’m gonna receive a full report exactly what the person said like I might if this were a criminal matter, because oftentimes we are dealing with these cases involving an alleged sexual assault, or a rape, dating violence things like that. So people expect to get the full story, thought the notices would say that. The notices don’t say that. Oftentimes, it’s very bare bones information who the other person is, when it approximately it occurred, and basically it may say something along the lines of, “you have been alleged to have entered into nonconsensual sexual contact with this person, at this place at this time” they may get no other information initially. It’s hard to formulate a defense for something like that when you don’t have the information available to you.

JR: So give us an example as stated about how it may have affected one of your clients.

MC: Sure. We’ve had a number of these cases. One such case, it’s actually a fairly recent case, it wasn’t even a student it was an employee of the college. Interestingly enough, this gentleman went to a different school comes back to the point where these can be brought at any time there’s no real statute of limitations to bring them. So about two years earlier he had met a girl at a particular downtown Boston college on Tinder. They met up consensually. He was invited to her dorm room he went there. They had this encounter which according to accounts essentially was consensual and at some point she wanted to stop the encounter. She didn’t specifically say so. She did begin crying which prompted him to ask, “Do you want me to stop?” she said something to the effect of, “Just get it over with.” or “Just keep going.” That’s really a point of contention. Fast forward two years later he’s working at the same college. He hadn’t gone there but he’s working there.

JR: As an employee.

MC: As a school safety officer at this point in time. He’s not a police officer but school security. He’s a non-sworn officer. What happens is he sees this particular girl on campus. They see each other from across the quad. He had been working at this place for about six months or so. He had an exemplary record so far. He gets called up to his lieutenant’s office to be told that it’s being alleged that he sexually assaulted this person about two years earlier. So, it comes out of the blue for him.

JR: It’s a ricochet it just hits him, and then he has to decide, “Oh, my God what’s my next step here.”

MC: Correct.

JR: OK.

MC: He found us, and we were able to help him through the process. Now the particular school in question was a private school. There is a distinction between private and public schools and what their process can be. They are all required to have a Title IX policy and each policy can be a little bit different. They all have to have certain things within them concerning notices and the type of the process and tell people what they should expect. The distinction between private and public school is in a private school you are not entitled to actual what they call due process. Ah, you are not required to have a full hearing like you might think of as a trial or something along those lines. It can very much be what it was in this case which was what they call a single investigator model. That’s where one person, in this case it was a she, a lawyer who was hired by the college to do this investigation.

JR: We haven’t talked about alcohol but that’s a huge factor in anyone’s college experience as we know. People have to be aware that that is something to think about when you are getting ready to go to school or when you are in school because that can lead to other issues.

MC: Alcohol is an issue in most Title IX cases particularly things happen after. People get very drunk in college it happens a lot. It happens at parties they get into these encounters – hookups happen all the time at these parties and the problem is alcohol almost plays into most of these cases if someone in the college realm or the Title IX realm if someone is drunk to the point of intoxication many times they don’t have the ability to consent to any type of sexual contact under the policies of Title IX

JR: Alright, so if Title IX happens to somebody who is listening to this or in the future happens to somebody what’s their first step? What should they do?

MC: Well the first thing they’re going to receive a notice from the college. That notice is going to have some bare bones details about what happened, time, place and person, it may also indicate to them that they are to refrain from certain things, they call them interim measures, so have no contact with the accuser or sometimes have no contact with certain witnesses. In certain cases, if they are living on campus they might be asked to move off of campus these are called interim measures. These are to insure theoretically to make sure that everyone in the process is safe and there is no retaliation. So they are going to receive that notice. If they receive that notice or if they even have a hint that it is coming they should contact a lawyer who specializes in Title IX such as ourselves.

JR: Right, exactly. One of the things that is obvious is the tenor of the times. The me-to movement. The victims are coming forward and rightfully so.  There’s probably not been a more charged environment than the one we have right now. Am I right?

MC: I agree. So, back when they first started using Title IX in this way what was happening is everyone remembers in the 80s and 90s where they refer to it now as a rape culture where no one was considered a to be rapist unless they were jumping out of the bushes and pulling you in and ripping your clothes off and having their way with you. And so, the pendulum has swung way far in the other direction to the point where anything even contact which may have been consensual or seemingly consensual even regretted later on is now people stepping forward and saying, “Well that’s sexual assault; I feel assaulted; I feel harassed; I feel abused in some way.” So, the pendulum has swung very far the other way.

JR: Finally, Mike, the bottom line, there is help for people who are accused and there is a defense and you represent that kind of help.

MC: Certainly. And that’s what we help the person to do. Keeping in mind that as an attorney we are able to be what they call an advisor for a person. You don’t have to be an attorney to be an advisor. Our job in the current state of Title IX is – we’re not allowed to act in our usual capacity. It’s not like we are in court, we don’t get to cross-examine witnesses, we don’t get to present the defense for them. But essentially what we are doing is helping them complete an investigation to try to get their side out, helping them to write any position statements that are necessary, attending interviews, attending hearings. If their school has a policy that allows them to have a full hearing before a board or before a tribunal, we are able to go with them and advise them in that capacity at that type of a hearing.

JR: So, you want someone who has the knowledge and the experience if you are going into Title IX on a Title IX issue somebody like yourself to be there by your side.

MC: Title IX is something that is fairly new to our office, however, I have been a criminal defense attorney for more than 20 years. I’ve handled many sexual assault cases. When I started doing Title IX cases a few years ago it was something that resonated with me. It was similar to a lot of the sexual assault cases we’d dealt with where with the charged environment the Me-too Movement and all that we’re also dealing with, you know,  there’s less of an innocent until proven guilty mode as opposed to guilty  until proven innocent. We assist people in helping them to present their side of the story in such a way that we can actually show there are defenses and help them through the process and hopefully have them exonerated at the end.

JR: Mike thank you so much that could be the most important crash course a college student takes. For more information about Contant Law and Title IX defense visit www dot Contant dash law dot com, follow Contant Law on Facebook, Twitter and connect with them on LinkedIn. For specific questions, email at info@ Contant dash law dot com. We hope you found this episode informative. Please rate and review this episode and subscribe for additional episodes to stay informed and protect your rights and your record. Share the episode with your friends so they better understand the current Title IX laws. Thank you for listening, this episode is available on all platforms. We look forward to your listening to future episodes.