Gerald (“Jerry”) Gault, 15, was charged on June 8, 1964, with making an indecent phone call to a neighbor, Mrs. Cook.
Gault and his friend, Ronald Lewis, were detained and brought to the Children’s Detention Home after Mrs. Cook filed a complaint. Gault was on probation when he was caught assisting another child in stealing a wallet from a woman’s handbag. After Gault committed the alleged phone call to Mrs. Cook, he was sentenced to six years in juvenile detention, a much stricter sentencing than what an adult would get for committing the same crime.
The parents of Gault filed a petition that was denied by both the Superior Court of Arizona and the Arizona Supreme Court. Later, the parents petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States. Thus, the United States Supreme Court question was if a juvenile had the procedural due process rights of an adult criminal defendant.
The case has a substantial regulatory impact because as sat the precedence of if juveniles and other minors had the right to be treated with due process and if the rights were the same as an adult criminal defendant. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of juveniles being entitled to the same process and rights as adults.
However, the court acknowledged that it might be beneficial to treat adults and juveniles differently in some cases, but due process was necessary to ensure individual freedom. The impact of the mentioned case did not conclude total similarity between adult and juvenile cases.
For example, in Winship and McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, the United States Supreme Court found that juvenile offenders did not have equal rights to adults when it came to jury trial requests. Thus, there is no constitutional right for a jury in juvenile cases but juvenile offenders have equal rights in terms of due process.