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Probe of drunk driving survey shines spotlight on driver's rights

Last month, we discussed the controversy that has arisen regarding a federal roadside survey intended to gather information about drunk driving and drugged driving. The survey is facilitated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has enlisted the help of both private contractors and local police departments. The contractors and police take motorists off of the roads across the country and ask them to provide blood samples, or breath or saliva samples. The goal of the survey is to learn how many Americans are driving drunk or while impaired by drugs, but motorists have complained that the methodologies are unconstitutional.

One driver has even sued the government for infringing on his rights in the name of the roadside safety survey, and now a U.S. House committee has agreed to look into the survey to make sure it is being conducted legally and appropriately.

The House transportation committee plans to investigate the survey, which has been performed five times since the early 1970s.

Federal officials have explained that participation in the survey is not required of drivers, and the information of drivers should remain anonymous. In fact, if a driver who participates in the survey is found to be impaired, he or she is supposed to be driven home or to a hotel. Criminal charges should not materialize from these stops. Nonetheless, a recent report by the Associated Press suggested that the contractors involved in the survey may not be respecting the rights of motorists.

The future of the probe into this survey remains to be seen, but the controversy this has generated is a reminder that the rights of motorists are not always respected here in New York. In fact, violations of motorist's rights often lead to DWI charges in New York, which can result in jail time, the loss of one's license and a criminal record. Those who find themselves facing a drunk driving charge after being stopped by police in New York need to be aware of their rights and their options to mount a criminal defense.

As is evidenced by the federal roadside survey, authorities are very motivated to keep dangerous drivers off the roads and to penalize drunk drivers. Those who find themselves facing drunk driving charges must protect their rights, and it is often beneficial to seek legal counsel in order to do so.

Source: The Associated Press, "US House committee looking into roadside survey," Michael Rubinkam, March 6, 2014

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