In Re Gault (1967) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Juvenile Justice

In Re Gault (1967) was a SCOTUS decision in which the Court held that juveniles accused of crimes in juvenile court must be afforded many of the same due process rights as adults, but not all.

In Re Gault (1967) is a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that dramatically changed the juvenile justice system. Before the ruling, juveniles did not have the same rights as adults when accused of a crime. They could be detained for an indefinite period without formal charges, and they were often denied the right to counsel, the right to notice of charges, the right to confront their accusers, and the right to a fair trial. The In Re Gault decision changed all of that.

The case involved a 15-year-old boy named Gerald Gault, who was accused of making a lewd phone call to his neighbor. Gault was arrested, taken into custody, and detained in a juvenile detention center without notice to his parents. He was not informed of his right to remain silent or his right to an attorney. At a hearing, which lasted only a few minutes, Gault was found to be delinquent and was committed to a state industrial school until he turned 21.

Gault’s parents filed a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that their son had been denied due process of law. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed, ruling that juveniles have the right to notice of charges, the right to an attorney, the right to confront witnesses, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to a transcript of the proceedings.

The decision in In Re Gault had far-reaching implications for the juvenile justice system. It established that juveniles are entitled to many of the same constitutional rights as adults when they are accused of a crime. The ruling also established that juvenile court proceedings must be held to the same due process standards as criminal court proceedings, which means that juveniles have a right to a fair and impartial hearing.

However, the In Re Gault decision did not grant juveniles all of the same rights as adults. For example, juveniles do not have the right to a trial by jury, the right to bail, or the right to a public trial. The Court reasoned that these rights were not necessary to protect the interests of juveniles in the same way that they are necessary to protect the interests of adults.

Despite the limitations of the In Re Gault decision, it represented a significant step forward for the rights of juveniles accused of crimes. It ensured that they would have some of the basic protections that are essential to a fair trial, and it signaled a shift in the way that the juvenile justice system viewed young people who had run afoul of the law. No longer were juveniles treated as second-class citizens, but instead, they were recognized as deserving of the same basic rights as any other citizen accused of a crime.

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Last Modified: 04/08/2023


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