Marchetti v. United States, 390 U.S. 39; 88 S. Ct. 697; 19 L. Ed. 2d 889 (1968)

Facts—A federal District Court in Connecticut (where there were numerous criminal penalties for gambling) convicted James Marchetti for violating federal statutes requiring the payment of an annual gambling occupational stamp tax and for failing to register before accepting wagers. These requirements were part of an intricate system of federal taxation applying to wagering, and the registration requirement was designed to aid the collection of the taxes. The arrangement was challenged as being unconstitutional.

Question—Are the methods employed by Congress in the federal wagering tax statutes consistent with the guarantee against self-incrimination contained in the Fifth Amendment?


ReasonsJ. Harlan (7–1). The federal Internal Revenue Service makes available to state law enforcement agencies the names and addresses of those who have paid the wagering tax. This creates a real and appreciable hazard of self-incrimination. The likelihood that any past or present gambling offenses will be discovered is increased. The tax provisions oblige even a prospective gambler to accuse himself of conspiracy to violate laws. Further, the premise that the self-incrimination guarantee is entirely inapplicable to prospective acts is too narrow an application of the privilege. Not merely time or a chronological formula must be considered but also the substantiality of the risks of incrimination. Those persons who properly assert the constitutional privilege as to these wagering tax provisions may not be criminally punished for failure to comply with their requirements.

NoteMarchetti overruled United States v. Kahriger, 345 U.S. 22 (1953) and Lewis v. United States, 348 U.S. 419 (1955).

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