The Court held that juveniles had the right to a hearing on the issue of transfer to adult court, that there must be the right to meaningful counsel, that counsel must be given access to the social records considered by the juvenile court, and that the juvenile court must provide a statement of its reasons for transfer with any waiver order. Justice Abe Fortas also called into question the fundamental fairness of the juvenile court:
While there can be no doubt of the original laudable purpose of juvenile courts, studies and critiques in recent years raise serious questions as to whether actual performance measures well enough against theoretical purpose to make tolerable the immunity of the process from the reach of constitutional guaranties applicable to adults. . . . There is evidence, in fact, that there may be grounds for concern that the child receives the worst of both worlds: that he gets neither the protections accorded to adults nor the solicitous care and regenerative treatment postulated for children (Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 555-556).
A year later, the decision of in re Gault (387 U.S. 1, 1967) extended the procedural safeguards required in juvenile court even further, giving juveniles many rights similar to those of adults charged with a crime. Fifteen-year-old Gerald Gault was sentenced to a state reformatory for an indeterminate period that could last until his 21st birthday for making an obscene phone call. The maximum sentence for an adult would have been a $50 fine or 2 months in jail. The case embodied nearly every procedural irregularity distinctive of juvenile courts: Gault was detained by the police and held overnight without his parents being notified; he was required to appear at a juvenile court hearing the following day; a probation officer filed a pro forma petition alleging Gault was a delinquent minor in need of care and custody of the court; no witnesses were called; there was no sworn testimony or written record of the court proceedings; and Gault was not advised of his right to remain silent or to have an attorney. The Gault decision entitled juveniles to receive notice of charges against them, to have legal counsel, to confront and cross-examine witnesses, to be protected against self-incrimination, to receive a transcript of the court hearing, and to appeal the judge's decision.
In 1970, the Supreme Court raised the standard of proof necessary in juvenile court to that required in adult criminal court. In in re Winship (397 U.S. 358), the Court required that juveniles charged with criminal acts be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” to have committed them. Prior to this ruling, there was no constitutional decision that required more than the less stringent civil court standard of a “preponderance of the evidence.”
Protection from double jeopardy was extended to juveniles by the Supreme Court in 1975. In Breed v. Jones (421 U.S. 519), the Court held that