Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968

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Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act to assist State and local governments in reducing the incidence of crime, to increase the effectiveness, fairness, and coordination of law enforcement and criminal justice systems at all levels of government, and for other purposes.
NicknamesLaw Enforcement and Criminal Justice Assistance Act of 1967
Enacted bythe 90th United States Congress
EffectiveJune 19, 1968
Public law90-351
Statutes at Large82 Stat. 197
Titles amended34 U.S.C.: Crime Control and Law Enforcement
U.S.C. sections created34 U.S.C. § 10101 et seq.
Legislative history
United States Supreme Court cases

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (Pub. L. 90–351, 82 Stat. 197, enacted June 19, 1968, codified at 34 U.S.C. § 10101 et seq.) was legislation passed by the Congress of the United States and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson that established the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA).[1] Title III of the Act set rules for obtaining wiretap orders in the United States. The act was a major accomplishment of Johnson's war on crime.


The LEAA, which was superseded by the Office of Justice Programs, provided federal grant funding for criminology and criminal justice research, much of which focused on social aspects of crime.[2] Research grants were also provided to develop alternative sanctions for punishment of young offenders. Block grants were provided to the states, with $100 million in funding.[3] Within that amount, $50 million was earmarked for assistance to local law enforcement agencies, which included funds to deal with riot control and organized crime.[3]


The Omnibus Crime Bill also prohibited interstate trade in handguns and increased the minimum age to 21 for buying handguns. This legislation was soon followed by the Gun Control Act of 1968, which set forth additional gun control restrictions.


The wiretapping section of the bill was passed in part as a response to the U.S. Supreme Court decisions Berger v. New York, 388 U.S. 41 (1967) and Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), which both limited the power of the government to obtain information from citizens without their consent, based on the protections under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the Katz decision, the Court "extended the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure to protect individuals with a 'reasonable expectation of privacy.'"

Section 2511(3) of the Crime Control Bill specifies that nothing in the act or the Federal Communications Act of 1934 shall limit the constitutional power of the President "to take such measures as he deems necessary":

  • "to protect the nation against actual or potential attack or other hostile acts of a foreign power, to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States or to protect national security information against foreign intelligence activities"
  • "to protect the United States against the overthrow of the Government by force or other unlawful means, or against any other clear and present danger to the structure or existence of the Government"

The section also limits use in evidence only where the interception was reasonable and prohibits disclosure except for purpose.

In 1975, the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, (known as the "Church Committee") was established to investigate abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In 1975 and 1976, the Church Committee published 14 reports on various U.S. intelligence agencies' operations, and a report on the FBI's COINTELPRO program stated that "the Fourth Amendment did apply to searches and seizures of conversations and protected all conversations of an individual as to which he had a reasonable expectation of privacy...At no time, however, were the Justice Department's standards and procedures ever applied to NSA's electronic monitoring system and its 'watch listing' of American citizens. From the early 1960s until 1973, NSA compiled a list of individuals and organizations, including 1200 American citizens and domestic groups, whose communications were segregated from the mass of communications intercepted by the Agency, transcribed, and frequently disseminated to other agencies for intelligence purposes".[4]

Academic Colin Agur argues that the act "disappoints" from the perspective of Brandeisian legal philosophy, in regards to individual privacy, because it assumes that law enforcement agencies have a right to electronic surveillance, instead of "giving unambiguous priority to individual privacy."[5]

Employee privacy[edit]

The Act prohibits "employers from listening to the private telephone conversations of employees or disclosing the contents of these conversations."[6][7] Employers can ban personal phone calls and can monitor calls for compliance provided they stop listening as soon as a personal conversation begins.[6][7] Violations carry fines up to $10,000.[6][7] The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 expanded these protections to electronic and cell phone communication.[6] See also Employee monitoring and Workplace privacy.

FBI expansion[edit]

The bill increased the FBI budget by 10% to fund police training at the FBI National Academy. Much of this training was for riot control, a popular political issue at the time.[8]

Miranda warning[edit]

In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 436) created the requirement that a citizen must be informed of their legal rights upon their arrest and before they are interrogated, which came to be known as Miranda warnings. Responding to various complaints that such warnings allowed too many criminals go free, Congress, in provisions codified under 18 U.S.C. § 3501 with a clear intent to reverse the effect of the court ruling, included a provision in the Crime Control Act directing federal trial judges to admit statements of criminal defendants if they were made voluntarily, without regard to whether he had received the Miranda warnings.

The stated criteria for voluntary statements depended on such things as:

(1) the time between arrest and arraignment;
(2) whether the defendant knew the crime for which he had been arrested;
(3) whether he had been told that he did not have to talk to the police and that any statement could be used against him;
(4) whether the defendant knew prior to questioning that he had the right to the assistance of counsel; and,
(5) whether he actually had the assistance of counsel during questioning.

It also provided that the "presence or absence of any of" the factors "need not be conclusive on the issue of voluntariness of the confession." (As a federal statute, it applied only to criminal proceedings either under federal laws, or in the District of Columbia.)

That provision was disallowed in 1968 by a federal appeals court decision that was not appealed, and it escaped Supreme Court review until 32 years after passage, in Dickerson v. United States (2000). A lower court of the Fourth Circuit had reasoned that Miranda was not a constitutional requirement, that Congress could therefore overrule it by legislation, and that the provision in the Omnibus Crime Control Act had supplanted the requirement that police give Miranda warnings. The Supreme Court overturned the Fourth Circuit decision, reaffirming the ruling of Miranda v. Arizona (1966) as the primary guideline for the admissibility of statements made during custodial interrogation, and stating that Congress does not have the legislative power to supersede Miranda v. Arizona.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "Lyndon B. Johnson: "Statement by the President Upon Signing the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.," June 19, 1968". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
  2. ^ Savelsberg, Joachim J., Lara L. Cleveland, Ryan D. King (June 2004). "Institutional Environments and Scholarly Work: American Criminology, 1951-1993". Social Forces. 82 (4): 1275–1302. doi:10.1353/sof.2004.0093. S2CID 145220713.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b "Government's 50 Greatest Endeavors". Brookings Institution. Archived from the original on 2006-10-16. Retrieved 2006-10-31.
  4. ^ Intelligence Reports and the Rights of Americans: Book II (PDF). Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities. April 24, 1976.
  5. ^ Agur, Colin (2013). "Negotiated Order: The Fourth Amendment, Telephone Surveillance, and Social Interactions, 1878-1968". Information & Culture. 48 (4): 419–447.
  6. ^ a b c d Kubasek, Nancy; Browne, M. Neil; Heron, Daniel; Dhooge, Lucien; Barkacs, Linda (2016). Dynamic Business Law: The Essentials (3d ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 528. ISBN 9781259415654.
  7. ^ a b c Slide 21 of Chapter 24 Powerpoint Archived 2017-03-12 at the Wayback Machine for text: Kubasek, Nancy; Browne, M. Neil; Heron, Daniel; Dhooge, Lucien; Barkacs, Linda (2013). Dynamic Business Law: The Essentials (2d ed.). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0073524979.
  8. ^ McKnight, Gerald D. (1998). "'The Poor People Are Coming!' 'The Poor People Are Coming!'". The last crusade : Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the poor people's campaign. Boulder [u.a.]: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3384-9.

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