Albertson v. Subversive Activities Control Board 382 U.S. 70 (1965)

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This was one of several cases in which the warren court, on self-incrimination grounds, struck down compulsory registration provisions aimed at individuals who were members of inherently suspect groups. (See marchetti v. united states.) The Communist party failed to register with the government as required by the subversive activities control board. The Board's order obligated all members of the party to register. By refusing, Albertson made himself liable to criminal penalties; he offered numerous constitutional objections. The Supreme Court decided only his claim that the order violated his right against self-incrimination.

Justice william j. brennan for an 8–0 Court observed, "Such an admission of membership may be used to prosecute the registrant under the membership clause of the smith act … or under … the Subversive Activities Control Act.…" The government relied on an old decision requiring all taxpayers to file returns, but Brennan answered that tax regulations applied to the public, not to "a highly selective group inherently suspect of criminal activities." The government also argued that a grant of immunity from prosecution for registrants supplanted the right against self-incrimination. Relying on counselman v. hitchcock (1892), Brennan ruled that unless the government provided "absolute immunity" for all transactions relating to coerced admissions, it failed to supplant the right. In kastigar v. united states (1972) the Court switched from transactional to use immunity.

(See immunity grants.)

Leonard W. Levy

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Albertson v. Subversive Activities Control Board 382 U.S. 70 (1965)

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