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Tennessee Law Review

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This Article proposes a constitutional constraint to limit criminalization of victimless crimes and, particularly, to alleviate the pressures on the criminal justice system emanating from its continuous “war on drugs.” To accomplish this goal, the Article explores the concept of human dignity, a fundamental right yet to be invoked in the context of substantive criminal law. The U.S. Supreme Court’s jurisprudence invokes conflicting accounts of human dignity: liberty as dignity, on the one hand, and communitarian virtue as dignity, on the other. However, the Court has not yet developed a workable mechanism to reconcile these competing concepts in cases where they directly clash. This Article proposes guidelines for balancing these contrasting interests and then applies them to drug crimes, illustrating that adopting such guidelines would result in constraining the scope of substantive criminal law.



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