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Standard Field Sobriety Tests in Wisconsin

Wisconsin allows officers that stop suspected OWI drivers to perform field sobriety tests in order to confirm suspicions of the violation.  Typically, there are six types of tests that officers generally use, but three are most utilized.  These are:

  1. Standing on one leg for up to 30 seconds,
  2. Walk and turn, sometimes administered as heel-to-toe
  3. Horizontal gaze nystagmus, which may also include vertical gaze nystagmus (the driver is asked to follow the movement of a penlight).  The theory is that the gaze of someone who is impaired by alcohol or drugs will be jerky rather than smooth.

While the last one is considered a test, it is more of an observation of the eyes of the suspect by the officer.  Other tests that can be administered are counting backwards, and saying the A,B,C’s starting from a mid letter point.

A person does have the right to refuse to submit to the field sobriety test.  The refusal has nothing to do with the breath test that the driver may be required to take later under the Implied Consent Law.  The results of the field sobriety test are generally not admissible in a court of law.  The purpose is to determine if there is a presence of alcohol.  Should a driver refuse the test, they should be prepared to be arrested for OWI as the officer will most likely use the refusal as confirmation of suspicion for OWI.


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