Another Small Step in America’s Battle Against Drunk Driving: How the Spending Clause Can Provide More Uniform Sentences for Drunk-Driving Fatalities

Amanda Staples

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Thousands of Americans are victims of drunk-driving accidents every year. In 2008 and 2009 alone, drunk driving claimed the lives of 22,550 Americans. That is almost three times the number of U.S. and coalition forces that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan between March 2003 and July 2011. That is 22,550 people, and even more families, whose lives will never be the same, and they have suffered because certain individuals made the reckless decision to drink and drive. Every day drunk drivers are waging a battle on U.S. roadways—a battle that too many innocent people are losing.
In the last thirty years Congress’s greatest weapon against drunk driving has been the Spending Clause, which allows the federal government to encourage states to enact tough drunk-driving legislation by conditioning the receipt of federal highway funds on the adoption of such legislation. Currently no two state statutes punish vehicular homicide while driving under the influence in the same way. This Note argues that Congress should adopt federal sentencing guidelines addressing drunk-driving fatalities and use its spending power to encourage uniform state adoption of these guidelines. Such an approach would provide a better deterrent for offenders and a greater feeling of justice for victims.
46 New Eng. L. Rev. 353

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