What Sobriety Tests Can I Expect to Take During an OWI Stop?

Drunk Driving

With ample proof, a police officer who pulls over a drunk driver in Wisconsin can arrest them for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). You should always plan a sober ride, but when you know how a typical drunk driving traffic stop operates, you’re more likely to stay calm during the process.

Besides a breath test, one common way police officers will gather evidence of intoxication is through a series of field sobriety tests. Getting a better understanding of these test before you’re asked to perform them on the side of the road can help you know what to expect and understand flaws that may help your defense.

Here is an overview of the three different sobriety tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  1. Walk-and-turn test: During the walk-and-turn test, suspects must walk in a straight line by taking heel-to-toe steps — nine to be exact. Then, after nine steps in one direction, they will turn on one foot and walk back with nine more steps.
  2. One-leg stand test: Through the one-leg stand test, a police officer will ask a test taker to stand on one foot. To perform this test correctly, the suspect needs to hold their foot up about six inches above the ground while counting for 30 seconds.
  3. Horizontal gaze nystagmus test: Through this test, the suspect must follow a small object with their eyes as a police officer moves it back and forth in front of them.

Throughout each test, the police officer conducting the traffic stop will look for any hints that the driver might be impaired. During the walk-and-turn and one-leg stand tests, one clue of impairment might be loss of balance. Through the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the officer will look to see if the suspect’s eye jerks seem normal or if they seem to be more dramatic than normal. And through all three tests, failure to follow the specific set of instructions the police officer gives may be a sign the driver is drunk.

Since the steps to these tests are highly detailed, it’s possible that a police officer might leave out an important part when they instruct suspects through them. And because they are highly physical, suspects could have health condition, like a balance disorder, that doesn’t allow them to complete sobriety tests with ease.

Thankfully, first-time offenders won’t be sentenced to jail time in Wisconsin, but having to pay fees for your mistake, facing higher insurance rates and driver’s license revocation can all cause major inconveniences. It’ll be helpful to speak with an experienced criminal law attorney before choosing to fight off an OWI charge by yourself.

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