Posts tagged “NHTSA

Roadblocks, Buccal Swabs, and Big Brother-Policing


Over the course of the past week, SF has received a handful of inquiries concerning a bizarre, new law enforcement tactic: stopping motorists at roadblocks and then asking — some would say demanding —  that driver’s submit to have the interior of their mouths swabbed.

Yesterday, RT reported that the LAPD will set-up roadblocks and supposedly ask motorists to “consent to a voluntary portable oral fluids test of their gum line and cheeks” on New Year’s Eve.

Some of those who’ve contacted SF asked how such roadblocks and searches could take place in the United States — in “the supposed the land of the free.”  Another wrote that “roadblocks are something I’d expect to see in China, not in America.”

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, sees roadblocks differently.  In the summer of 1990, the high court held, by a 6-3 vote, that “sobriety checkpoints” (i.e. roadblocks) were legal.  This decision was more or less authored by now deceased Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was raised in Shorewood, Wisconsin; whereby, the court held that roadblocks did, in essence, violate the Fourth Amendment, but this violation of the Bill of Rights is minor.

Ironically, when the government violates the Bill of Rights for the ‘public good’ the courts pretty much cover for its agents.  That being said could one only imagine what would happen to a citizen, like Edward Snowden, should they make a similar argument in court.  After all, Snowden proved that officials from the Obama administration and the NSA had lied, under oath, to members of Congress. A hunch tells me that, should he ever return to the United States, the Supreme Court will not be as kind to him as they were to roadblocks.

As far as the use of buccal swabs to gather evidence at roadblocks, this is a fairly recent law enforcement phenomenon.  In a previous post, SF spotlighted some of these highly controversial stops, which appear to be funded, in part, by grants from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA is a bureaucratic agency the continually lobbies Congress to pass more intrusive, Big Brother-type laws.  Earlier this year, NHTSA demanded that automakers install “black boxes” in each vehicle that record virtually every function of the driver.  Police officers will soon be provided equipment, paid for with federal grant money, to search these boxes whenever an exigent circumstance presents itself (i.e. an accident or a moving violation) or with a court order.  Earlier this year, NHTSA announced its support to have the alcohol limit lowered to .05 percent of blood alcohol content.

Under the proposed NHTSA guidelines, a 180 pound man, who has not eaten a full meal, would reach 0.05 after consuming three beers in 90 minutes.  A 135 pound woman, who had not eaten a full meal, would near 0.05 if she consumed two beers in 90 minutes.

In all reality, unless something changes, the writing — about where all of this is heading — is already on the wall: absolute sobriety for ALL persons operating a motor vehicle of any kind and the collection of human DNA by the government at birth.  SF predicts that, should present technological trends go unchecked by lawmakers, and public complacency continues, these two laws will be on the books in most states by 2025.

Note: In Wisconsin, state law currently prohibits law enforcement from using roadblocks.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

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© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013