Cops: Research Intimidation Prevented Breath Test Refusal

First, imagine being randomly pulled over by the police even though you have not done anything wrong. Then, picture yourself being forced to provide saliva, breath and even blood samples as part of a national transportation research study. That is exactly what is happening in jurisdictions throughout Missouri and the rest of the nation, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducts a federal research study about drunk driving. At least one municipality in Texas is refusing to participate in any additional research, though, after drivers complained en masse because of the unprovoked and invasive DWI traffic stops.

Officials in Fort Worth, Texas, say they will continue to opt out of any future research efforts, thanks to the backlash from area residents. The city’s police chief has even apologized to the drivers who were forced to the side of the road, where invasive physical samples were obtained in the name of science. Although participating in the survey was strictly voluntary, drivers interpreted the presence of police as a mandate for surrendering the physical samples. The drivers would not have been cited for breath test refusal in connection with the study, but that was not made clear to the affected motorists.

Experts in the field question the validity of the research study design, arguing that the methods may actually lead to arrests for drunk driving. In that situation, officers could be blamed for violating constitutional rights, especially considering the nature of the search. Legal gurus liken the study to unnecessary home invasion; just because we are interested in people’s behaviors in their houses, we are not permitted to break down doors to observe area residents.

Victims who have been unfairly searched or punished because of the random research stops may be entitled to compensation from the law enforcement departments that assisted with the study. In such cases, the drivers may face serious consequences even though they were unfairly searched. Those defendants’ rights should be protected, even though they may have been driving with a BAC higher than the legal limit.

Source:, “Motorist stops for breath, blood samples spur anger, apology” Cheryl K. Chumley, Dec. 03, 2013