Want to volunteer for a DUI investigation?

States technically have their own drunk driving laws, but a DUI-related matter is making a national stir. That’s because there is a constitutional issue with the way that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is supposedly “collecting data” about drivers.

In Tennessee and the rest of the country, police generally must have probable cause to initiate a traffic stop and DUI investigation. Cause might be a traffic violation or broken taillights, for example, but the basic rule is that someone can’t just be approached as some sort of suspect for no reason.

But what if someone is asked to “volunteer” their time and information to authorities?

The government conducts what it refers to as a survey of U.S. drivers every decade or so. Uniformed, off-duty officers collect information from drivers, including blood, saliva and breath test results, to discover trends about drunk and drugged driving. Those samples are only collected, according to the government, if drivers agree to providing them.

Critics of this national driver survey worry that drivers might not fully understand what is going on and what their rights are. If they are stopped while driving and someone is in uniform, they might feel intimidated into providing biological samples that they aren’t required to give.

The NHTSA insists that no criminal charges result from the survey stops and tests, but it is easy to understand why the effort could raise some eyebrows among motorists, civil rights advocates and criminal defense lawyers who have seen DUI charges stem from unethical processes.

Source: USA Today, “Voluntary government checkpoints spark backlash,” Larry Copeland, Jan. 7, 2014

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