Organized Crime Control Act 84 Stat. 922 (1970)

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Heralded as the most comprehensive federal law ever enacted to combat organized crime, this act was not limited to that use alone. Its provisions applied to a wide range of offenses, on the theory that the involvement of organized crime in a particular criminal act is not always clear. The detection of such involvement was one purpose of the law.

the legislation contained thirteen titles, a number of which aroused sharp criticism on constitutional grounds. One controversial title reinforced and expanded the investigatory power of grand juries by authorizing special grand juries to return indictments and to report to united states district courts concerning criminal misconduct by appointive public officials involving organized criminal activity or concerning organized crime conditions in their areas. An individual named in such a report was entitled to a grand jury hearing, with the right to call witnesses and to file a rebuttal to the report. Another title replaced all previous laws governing witness immunity grants; the title authorized federal legislative, administrative, and judicial bodies to grant witnesses immunity from prosecution using their testimony. The new section thus substituted "use immunity" for the "transaction immunity" that had previously protected such witnesses from prosecution for any events mentioned in or related to their testimony regardless of independent evidence against them.

Other provisions authorized detention of recalcitrant witnesses for contempt until they complied with court orders to testify, but for no longer than eighteen months, authorized convictions for perjury based on obviously contradictory statements made under oath (no longer requiring proof of the crime by any particular number of witnesses or by any particular type of evidence), and the use of depositions in criminal cases subject to constitutional guarantees and certification by the attorney general that the case involved organized crime. Still other sections limited to five years the period in which government action to obtain evidence could be challenged as illegal and limited the disclosure of government records previously required by alderman v. united states (1969). Finally, the act authorized increased sentences up to twenty-five years for persons convicted of felonies, provided they were found to be dangerous and to be "habitual" offenders, "professional" criminals, or "organized crime figures."

Although the whole measure was denounced by the New York City Bar Association as containing "the seeds of official repression," only the narrowed witness immunity provisions were challenged. In kastigar v. united states (1972) the Supreme Court ruled that they did not violate the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Paul L. Murphy


Congressional Quarterly 1973 Congress and the Nation, vol. 3. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly.

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Organized Crime Control Act 84 Stat. 922 (1970)

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