Fourth Amendment and Fort Worth’s Checkpoint

Off Duty Fort Worth Police Officers helped a federal agency collect information about Texans. The first question that comes to most peoples mind is “can the government do this?” Or “What about my Fourth Amendment rights?

Columbia University researchers found that drivers who tested positive for drugs were three times more likely to be in a fatal car accident. The federal government is conducted these tests to obtain more data on drug and alcohol use.

On Friday November 15, 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration set up checkpoints in North Texas. The purpose of these checkpoints was to conduct a roadside survey of alcohol and drug use. Off duty officers flagged down drivers and asked them to participate in a survey. Officers asked the drivers to give a saliva, blood, and breath samples. Those who participated received a monetary payment.

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures of the persons, houses, and effects. A governmental agent or agency acting implicates this right. This is especially true when there is a criminal prosecution. When the government intrudes into your life in other ways, the Fourth Amendment does not protect people.

Generally, law enforcement must have a warrant to conduct a search or detain a person. However, there are a number of exceptions to this requirement. . A voluntary encounter between police officers and a private citizen is not a search or detention. In that same line, police officers can conduct a search if a person consents.

When law enforcement officers flag down a car, very few people would feel that this encounter is voluntary. The Fourth Amendment is meant to protect all citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Under Texas law, police officers cannot set up a DWI checkpoint. Here, it seems that the federal government ignored Texas law while employing Texas peace officers. This type of checkpoint is problematic. It is designed to intrude in people’s lives, but may not provide these people a remedy.

For more information from Columbia University, click here.

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