Before the RICO statute was passed, has there ever been any attempts to treat armed criminal organizations as forms of rebellion?

It is sometimes said (regardless of whether it is true) that crime went down in Chicago when Al Capone was in charge. But that would mean that Al Capone acted as a rebel government would it not?

Is this an issue of there not being a law to handle it? Because the Constitution clearly authorizes the government to treat certain armed entities as rebels by saying in Article I, Section 9, Clause 2

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

If someone like Al Capone was running a government-like organization, then he could have been treated as a rebel, could he not? Was this, or any similar legal theory, ever tested in courts?

  • 1
    I feel like there's a pretty big gap between discouraging and punishing crime on the one hand and insurrection on the other.
    – bdb484
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 20:03
  • Why would reducing crime mean Capone was "acting as a government"? Certainly, private citizens can and do take some steps to reduce crime (hiring security for their businesses, etc.) without infringing on the role of government.
    – Cadence
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 1:05
  • @Cadence sure if they do it legally. Capone ran an illegal organization which in effect usurped some government functions. You can abstract anything away if you decide that some important details are unimportant and vice versa. But that's a decision on facts and it would be up to a jury to make that determination. It's not a decision on law per se.
    – wrod
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 2:48

1 Answer 1


No. This approach was not historically taken.

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