11 May Is the requirement of seatbelt use set forth in Section 2 within Congress’s constitutional authority or should it be struck down as an unconstitutional exercise of authority?
After a rash of automobile deaths, Congress holds a series of hearings about the effectiveness of state seatbelt laws. Much testimony before Congress indicates that although all states require their drivers to wear seatbelts, many states do not effectively enforce these rules. Congress finds that this lax enforcement leads to thousands of the highway deaths each year.
Following the hearings, the House of Representatives passes H.R. 1217, which states:
Section 1: Purpose of this Bill. Congress makes the following findings of fact. A majority of states fail to enforce their own seatbelt regulations, thereby causing significantly more fatalities on interstate highways then there would otherwise be. This failure to enforce seatbelt legislation has a significant cumulative effect on interstate commerce by making travel on highways more dangerous than it would otherwise be.
Section 2: Requirement of seatbelt use. Any person who operates a motor vehicle on any limited access highway of four or more lanes without approved use of a safety belt shall be subject to a fine of no more than $500.
Section 3: Requirement of enforcement by state authorities. It shall be the responsibility of highway patrol officers of the several states to enforce this legislation. Any highway patrol officer employed by a state that will fully fails to enforce this legislation by failing to issue a summons when appropriate under section 2 shall be subject to a fine of not more than $500.
Section 4. Deprivation of federal highway funds. Any state that is shown by clear and convincing evidence to have failed to enforce the provisions of Section 2 in more than 75% of appropriate cases shall be deprived of 10% of the funding from the United States that would have been allocated to repair and/or build that states highways during the following calendar year.
Sections 2 through 4 of this bill are later challenged by individuals and states with appropriate standing. Please answer, using appropriate Supreme Court and/or other case law, the following questions.
1) 1. Is the requirement of seatbelt use set forth in Section 2 within Congress’s constitutional authority or should it be struck down as an unconstitutional exercise of authority?
2) 2. Section 3 is challenged on federalism grounds, based on the argument that Congress does not have the authority to force state patrol officers to take actions under the color of state law. Is this argument likely to succeed? This discussion should be a part from any discussion as to whether the underlying seatbelt law under section 2 is valid.
3) 3. Section 4 is also challenged on federalism grounds, based on a similar argument to that expressed against section 3. Is this argument likely to succeed? Please discuss any distinctions that could be made between section 3 and section 4 that may impact the constitutionality of one as opposed to the other.
Please use appropriate case law to back up all of your answers. You do not have to write IRAC-style essays to answer each question.
APPROPRIATE CASE LAW (cases and statutes) need to be used to support each question.
Each question needs to be answered separately. Approximately 3 pages – no reference page or cover sheet, 3 pages of substance – DO NOT REPEAT THE QUESTION PORTION IN THE PAPER AS PART OF YOUR WRITTEN EXAMINATION