A city resident has sued the City of Reading in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia over a motorist checkpoint earlier this month.

Ricardo Nieves, who filed the suit, is one of several drivers forced off Laurel Street for what was called a voluntary survey on driving habits. He said that he was asked for a cheek swab during the Dec. 13 checkpoint.

Nieves claims in the suit that the city helped a private firm conducting the survey to violate his constitutional right not to be stopped without probable cause. He also is asking the court to ban the city from making similar stops and to compensate him and other motorists for false imprisonment. Nieves had complained to City Council about the checkpoint.

Nieves, who filed the suit Friday, said he was reluctant to sue.

"I love this city," Nieves said. "I didn't want to file, but I didn't want to be pulled over either.

"If they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone. If it can happen here in the city, who's to say it couldn't happen in Mount Penn, or Shillington?"

In addition to the city, the suit's named defendants include Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer, Police Chief William M. Heim, Pacific Institute for Research & Evaluation, the firm that conducted the survey under a federal contract, and two of its employees.

Spencer could not be reached for comment. Heim said he could not comment on pending litigation.

Heim earlier had dismissed the criticism, saying police were hired only to provide site security, and had nothing to do with stopping motorists or asking questions.

According to the suit:

About 10:30 that Friday morning as Nieves drove in the 400 block of Laurel Street, traffic cones divided the lanes. A city police car with lights flashing was parked nearby.

A civilian, whom Nieves believes worked for the institute, stepped off the curb in front of his car, and forced him into a parking lot that had another city police car with an officer inside.

There, a woman said a survey was being conducted on driving habits. She also wanted a swab of his cheek, for which he would be paid.

Nieves said he had to refuse several times before the woman would let him go. He said the presence of the police cars and officers made it appear to not be voluntary at all.

The suit says federal courts have ruled that stopping motorists without probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

The suit asks that, if motorists can forcibly be stopped for a driving habits survey, could they also be forcibly stopped to ask about their religious preferences, or TV viewing habits?

Read the lawsuit: