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Drivers argue survey process violates rights, feels like DUI stop

Though cynicism about the government might be common among the public these days, if it looks like a police officer is pulling someone over, that person is likely to stop. It turns out that some apparent traffic stops aren't actually traffic stops at all. They are so-called "voluntary DUI surveys" that are meant to provide information about national drugged and drunk driving trends.

But according to some motorists across the country who have participated in the national survey, the interview process can feel more like a criminal investigation and DUI stop rather than a collaborative volunteer opportunity. Some worry that the DUI research project poses a threat to the public's rights and shouldn't be allowed.

A motorist can only be legally pulled over and stopped by an officer in Minnesota if the officer has probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. For example, if a driver was speeding, driving erratically, runs a stop light, etc., the police can legally pull the driver over. That traffic stop can sometimes turn into a drunk driving investigation from which an arrest and possible DUI charge might result.

Motorists who take part in the controversial survey are chosen at random and directed to pull over. U.S. Transportation officials insist that no criminal charges will result from results of the voluntary survey, even if a driver's chemical tests reveal drugs or alcohol in their systems. Drivers who seem to be impaired are given rides home, not rides to the nearest jail.

Do the rights granted to U.S. citizens, however, only aim to protect people from false arrests and criminal charges? Critics of the national survey suggest that the roadside research process, including the presence of police during the interviews, puts law-abiding people in a confusing, seemingly threatening position. They feel like they have to pull over and participate but likely also feel that there is no reason for them to do so.

It isn't just a roadside survey that potentially violates the rights of U.S. drivers. Minnesota drivers' rights can be violated during routine impaired driving investigations. Someone who has been arrested for DUI should work with a drunk driving defense lawyer who will determine whether authorities violated the rights of the defendant.

Source: The Associated Press, "Motorists criticize federal roadside survey on impaired driving that includes DNA sample," Michael Rubinkam, Feb. 20, 2014

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