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In Re: Gault: A Constitutional Celebration

NCJ Number
Children's Legal Rights Journal Volume: 8 Issue: 3 Dated: (Summer 1987) Pages: 11-15
F J Ceresi
Date Published
5 pages
This article examines the 'Gault' decision, which provided basic due process rights to juveniles.
In the mid-1960's, when the Gault case occurred, there were two different legal systems in the United States -- one for minors and one for adults. As a juvenile, Gerald Gault was afforded no significant legal protection and was subject to the whim of the presiding judge. During the 19th century, it was deemed that the juvenile court judge was to act for the state in loco parentis for the purpose of protecting the child. The focus was on rehabilitation and treatment, not punishment. Legal formalities such as use of rules of evidence and the presence of an attorney were deemed unnecessary. The requirements of due process in juvenile delinquent proceedings handed down by the Supreme Court in the Gault decision in 1967 included: (1) the right to adequate and timely notice of charges to both the child and parents; (2) notification of the child and parents of the right to representation of counsel or right to appointment of counsel; (3) the application of the 5th Amendment privilege amendment against self-incrimination was to apply to the juvenile; and (4) entitlement to the constitutional right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. Other court cases granting further rights include the 1970 Supreme Court case In Re: Winship, that granted the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard of proof in the adjudicatory stage of delinquency proceedings, and Breed v. Jones, where the double jeopardy clause was found to apply to minors as well as adults. 17 footnotes.