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Things you should know about field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2020 | Criminal Defense

If you’re driving along a Wisconsin road and notice red and blue flashing lights in your rearview mirror, it’s enough to make your blood pressure soar. Maybe you’ve had to pay a couple of speeding tickets in your lifetime. Then again, maybe police have never pulled you over in a traffic stop before that moment. Either way, it’s understandable to feel nervous and worried.

How well do you know your rights? Would you be able to determine if a police officer were to violate your rights during a traffic stop? These are important questions, the answers to which may significantly affect the outcome of your circumstances if an officer places you under arrest. The more you know ahead of time, the better able to protect your rights you’ll be. For instance, it’s helpful to learn about your rights regarding field sobriety tests.

If a Wisconsin police officer asks you to step out of your vehicle

Imagine meeting a few friends for dinner at your favorite local restaurant. This particular establishment carries a handcrafted brew you love, so you order a beer with your supper. On your way home, a patrol officer pulls you over. When you roll down your window, the officer asks to see your license and registration. After you show these documents, the officer asks you to step out of your car.

If this happens, you can assume that the officer in question suspects you of drunk driving or impairment caused by drugs. To make an arrest, the officer must have probable cause. This is why the next question to you might be a request to take a field sobriety test.

Three common types of testing

Wisconsin police typically use three different types of field sobriety tests to determine if they have probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of drunk driving. The following list includes a brief explanation of each type of test:

  • A walk-and-turn test is an easy way for a police officer to observe your ability to walk in a straight line. This test typically involves walking with the heel of one foot at the toes of the other while you hold your arms outstretched at shoulder level.
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is an eye test. While you track an object vertically or horizontally without moving your head, the officer will check to see if your eyeballs jerk erratically before reaching your maximum peripheral vision point.
  • A one-leg stand test is all about balance. If you are a clumsy person by nature, you might find it especially challenging to stand on one leg with your arms at your side and head tilted upward while counting or reciting the alphabet out loud.

As a police officer observes your ability or inability to perform a field sobriety test, he or she is also closely monitoring your ability to understand and follow a series of simple instructions. The officer‘s personal interpretation of your test performance may strongly influence whether you pass or fail.

Know your rights

Wisconsin law does not hold you legally obligated to comply with a request to take a field sobriety test. You may refuse without legal or administrative penalty. You also may invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent without the benefit and presence of legal representation. This is why most people ask to speak with an attorney right away when a police officer has detained them and starts asking questions such as whether they have had anything to drink containing alcohol.

If you know your rights and where to seek immediate legal support, you may be able to mitigate the potential negative outcome of a DUI arrest.

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