We write frequently about the delicate balance that the criminal justice system ultimately seeks to achieve. On the one hand, it is important to proportionately and fairly hold individuals accountable for criminal wrongdoing in order to advance the cause of public safety. On the other hand, it is vital that the system ensures that the rights of individuals accused or convicted of wrongdoing are respected at every step in the process.
Recently, a governmental initiative aimed at promoting public safety arguably trampled on the rights of motorists. Essentially, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently conducted a National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drugged Driving. According to the Associated Press, this particular survey has been conducted a handful of times since 1973. The survey helps federal regulators monitor drunk driving behaviors on American roadways.
During the course of the survey, thousands of motorists were pulled over and both asked for a swab of their mouths and questioned about their driving habits. Though these motorists were not arrested or accused of any criminal wrongdoing, the invasive nature of the survey has many angered that the government is pursuing aims of public safety without respecting motorists’ right to privacy.
Though submitting a mouth swab and answering questions were both voluntary actions on the part of motorists, many may have not understood that these actions were voluntary. Any time that the government asks for bodily material that could be tested for DNA, it is important for individuals to be cautious. As a result, if you ever have questions about what kinds of governmental and law enforcement actions are voluntary and which are not, ask to speak to an attorney before submitting to any testing or questioning.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Roadside survey of impaired driving causes outcry,” Michael Rubinkam, Feb. 20, 2014