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In re Winship

Supreme Court of the United States

January 20, 1970, Argued ; March 31, 1970, Decided

No. 778

Opinion

 [*358]  [***372]  [**1069]    MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

 Constitutional questions decided by this Court concerning the juvenile process have centered on the adjudicatory stage at "which a determination is made as to  [*359]  whether a juvenile is a 'delinquent'  [**1070]  as a result of alleged misconduct on his part, with the consequence that he may be committed to a state institution." In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 13 (1967). Gault decided that, ] although the Fourteenth Amendment does not require that the hearing at this stage [****3]  conform with all the requirements of a criminal trial or even of the usual administrative proceeding, the Due Process Clause does require application during the adjudicatory hearing of "'the essentials of due process and fair treatment.'" Id., at 30. This case presents the single, narrow question whether proof beyond a reasonable doubt is among the "essentials of due process and fair treatment" required during the adjudicatory stage when a juvenile is charged with an act which would constitute a crime if committed by an adult. 1

 [****4]   Section 712 of the New York Family Court Act defines a juvenile delinquent as "a person over seven  [***373]  and less than sixteen years of age who does any act which, if done by an adult, would constitute a crime." During a 1967 adjudicatory hearing, conducted pursuant to § 742 of the Act, a judge in New York Family Court  [*360]  found that appellant, then a 12-year-old boy, had entered a locker and stolen $ 112 from a woman's pocketbook.  The petition which charged appellant with delinquency alleged that his act, "if done by an adult, would constitute the crime or crimes of Larceny." The judge acknowledged that the proof might not establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but rejected appellant's contention that such proof was required by the Fourteenth Amendment. The judge relied instead on § 744 (b) of the New York Family Court Act which provides that ] "any determination at the conclusion of [an adjudicatory] hearing that [****5]  a [juvenile] did an act or acts must be based on a preponderance of the evidence." 2 [****6]  During a subsequent dispositional hearing, appellant was ordered placed in a training school for an initial period of 18 months, subject to annual extensions of his commitment until his 18th birthday -- six years in appellant's case. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, First Judicial Department, affirmed without opinion, 30 App. Div. 2d 781, 291 N. Y. S. 2d 1005 (1968). The New York Court of Appeals then affirmed by a four-to-three vote, expressly sustaining the constitutionality of § 744 (b), 24 N. Y. 2d 196, 247 N. E. 2d 253 (1969). 3  [*361]  We noted  [**1071]  probable jurisdiction, 396 U.S. 885 (1969). We reverse.

 [****7]  I

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397 U.S. 358 *; 90 S. Ct. 1068 **; 25 L. Ed. 2d 368 ***; 1970 U.S. LEXIS 56 ****; 51 Ohio Op. 2d 323

IN RE WINSHIP

Prior History:  [****1]  APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK.

Disposition:  24 N. Y. 2d 196, 247 N. E. 2d 253, reversed.

CORE TERMS

beyond a reasonable doubt, juvenile, due process, due process of law, standard of proof, juvenile court, delinquency, law of the land, convincing, factfinder, Rights, guilt, criminal case, youth, the Fourteenth Amendment, reasonable-doubt, innocent, words, juvenile proceeding, limitations, proceedings, adult, dissenting opinion, criminal trial, criminal law, preponderance, convict, preponderance of evidence, adjudication hearing, fundamental fairness

Administrative Law, Hearings, Right to Hearing, General Overview, Constitutional Law, Substantive Due Process, Scope, Criminal Law & Procedure, Juvenile Offenders, Juvenile Proceedings, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Trials, Burdens of Proof, Prosecution, Due Process, Family Law, Delinquency & Dependency, Delinquency Proceedings, Counsel, Right to Counsel