Gutknecht v. United States,
396 U.S. 295 (1970)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gutknecht v. United States, 396 U.S. 295 (1970)

Gutknecht v. United States

No. 71

Argued November 20, 1969

Decided January 19, 1970

396 U.S. 295


While petitioner's I-A Selective Service classification was on appeal from the local board's denial of his application for exemption as a conscientious objector, petitioner surrendered his registration certificate and classification notice by leaving them, along with a statement against the war in Vietnam, on the steps of the federal building. The State Board denied the exemption and classified petitioner I-A. He was thereafter declared delinquent by his local board for failing to retain his registration and classification papers in his possession at all times as required by the Selective Service regulations. Pursuant to the regulations promulgated under the Military Selective Service Act of 1967, a local board may declare a registrant a "delinquent" for failure to perform duties required by the Selective Service law. A registrant in I-A status who is declared delinquent is, under 32 CFR § 1642.13, assigned first priority in the order of induction call, depriving him of his previous standing in the order of call. Petitioner was ordered to report for induction about a month after he had been declared a delinquent. In view of petitioner's age (20), it is unlikely that he would have been called at that time for induction had he not been declared a delinquent. Following petitioner's refusal on the designated date to be processed for induction, he was indicted and later convicted for willfully and knowingly failing "to perform a duty required of him" under the Act. His conviction was affirmed on appeal. Petitioner attacks as invalid the Selective Service regulations accelerating the induction of one declared to be a delinquent.


1. Petitioner's failure to appeal administratively from the order declaring him delinquent does not deprive him of standing to contest his conviction, as the regulations conferring hearing rights apply to those contesting classifications made by local boards, and not to those like petitioner whose delinquency rests on undisputed facts, or to those whose induction has merely been accelerated. Pp. 396 U. S. 299-301.

2. The delinquency regulations under which petitioner was punitively deprived of the order-of-call preference accorded to

Page 396 U. S. 296

him are not authorized by the Act, and are therefore void. Pp. 301-308.

(a) Congress intended to punish delinquents through the criminal law, and not through a delinquency procedure, which has no statutory sanction. Pp. 302-303.

(b) Deferment of the order of call may bestow great benefits, and its acceleration may be extremely punitive. Pp. 304-306.

(c) The power under the Selective Service regulations to declare a registrant "delinquent" lacks statutory standards or guidelines, without which the legality of a delinquency declaration cannot be judged. Pp. 306-308.

406 F.2d 494, reversed.

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