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Federal Roadblock Asks Drivers for Saliva, Blood

25-Nov-2013

Approximately once each decade, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), along with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), conducts a national survey of drivers to determine incidence of drug or alcohol intoxication while driving. In 2007, during the fourth such survey, the NHTSA first began collecting saliva and blood samples from drivers. Perhaps because of more awareness of the methods, or perhaps because of the way these surveys are conducted, citizens are concerned about the privacy violations that may occur with such an invasive request.

The survey and provision of samples, say the NHTSA, are completely voluntary. In fact, the agency will even pay respondents for providing samples--$10 for a saliva sample from a cheek swab and $50 for a blood sample. The NHTSA says that the results of saliva and blood tests are anonymous.

However, drivers and privacy rights advocates are both skeptical and critical. After all, these "voluntary" tests are conducted at police-manned roadblocks. While participation in the survey and the provision of samples may be voluntary, being stopped is not.

According to the NHTSA, a roadblock is set up near a parking lot where drivers can pull off the roadway to complete the survey and submit to a breath, saliva, or blood test. Off-duty law enforcement officers contract with the NHTSA to man the roadblock and randomly select drivers for participation. The driver would approach the officer with his or her window rolled down. If the chooses to participate in the survey, then he or she pulls into the parking lot; if not, he or she is free to go.

Some drivers stopped at a Texas roadblock say that, although the agency claims the test is voluntary, they felt compelled to participate. Driver Kim Cope, who was stopped on her lunch break November 15, told reporters,"I gestured to the guy in front that I just wanted to go straight, but he wouldn't let me and forced me into a parking spot." She says she was offered cash for a cheek swab or blood sample, but when she declined, they asked her to submit to a breathalyzer test. Cope, who did not want to participate in the "voluntary" survey, says she finally submitted to a breath test "because I thought that would be the easiest way to leave."

The Fort Worth Police Department initially said that its officers were not involved in the NHTSA roadblock, but later discovered that the agency had contracted with off-duty police. The Department apologized to area drivers who were "offended or inconvenienced," and says it is looking into the matter to ensure that all FWPD protocols were met.

One has to wonder how accurate the survey results could be from asking for a voluntary sample at a roadblock manned by police officers. Would drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol be likely to submit to voluntary testing of their breath, blood, or saliva?

With concerns about the privacy rights of citizens being trampled by NSA surveillance, DNA testing at arrest, and other invasions of privacy, collecting body fluid samples at a roadblock seems to be just one more way our expectation of privacy is eroded.

If you are the subject of an unreasonable search and seizure or if you have been arrested as the result of an illegal traffic stop, the evidence against you may be suppressed, which could lead to a dismissal of your case. Visit us here  to discuss the matter with a defense attorney prepared to fight for your rights.





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