OWI, DUI, Drunk driving
and other traffic matters
OWI, DUI, Drunk Driving
and other traffic matters
What To Do if You Are Stopped
There are no simple solutions when you are stopped and the officer believes you may be intoxicated. First, be polite to the officer. Defensive motorists are more likely to be cited.
If the officer suspects a motorist is under the influence, the officer may request to administer field sobriety tests. The exact tests administered vary among departments across the State of Wisconsin, but may include one or more of the following: Horizontal Gast Nastygmus test, one-leg stand test, heel-to-toe walk test, touch-your-nose, alphabet recitation, etc. During the stop and through these tests, the officer will seek to observe other indicators of intoxication including the smell of alcohol or other substances, whether you have bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or trouble balancing. If you doubt your ability to complete the field sobriety tests, I recommend that a motorist refuse to submit to the tests. This refusal may be used against a driver in court but you can be assured that failure to perform well on the tests will also be used.
After field sobriety tests, most officers in Wisconsin will request that a motorist submit to a preliminary breath test. This is a small device with a straw that a motorist blows into, which can detect the presence of alcohol. PBT results are notoriously inaccurate and are not admissible as proof of intoxication in court. However, a person's refusal to take the PBT is admissible in court.
The Chemical Test and Implied Consent
In Wisconsin, when you apply for a Driver's License, every person signs a form granting consent to have your blood, breath, or urine checked for the presence of alcohol or other drugs during the course of a traffic investigation in which you are the driver. Therefore, when an officer stops a motorist and requests that you submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine, a failure to comply will result in the loss of your driving privilege. This test can take a number of forms: blood draw at a hospital, breathalyzer test at the police station, providing a contemporaneous urine sample. Because a loss of license is automatic for most refusals, a motorist should consent to a chemical test. Results for blood or urine will not be immediately known.
A Serious Offense
Drunk driving is a serious offense. Failure to contest a first drunk driving charge will automatically result in the suspension of your driving privilege for a minimum of six months. Additionally, the fines can be staggering. On second and subsequent offenses, jail time is not required by law. In Wisconsin, a fourth offense within five years of a third offense, or a fifth or subsequent offense, is considered a felony matter, which may result in a prison sentence.
Can an attorney help?
When you are charged with drunk driving or driving under the influence, the ramifications almost always warrant the services of an attorney. Many times, there are defenses available that could help get the charges reduced or dismissed. It is imperative that you make every effort to protect your license from the outset.