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What To Do If You Are Stopped
There are no simple solutions when you are stopped and the officer believes you may be intoxicated. You may have heard rumors or stories about what to do, but the simple truth is that there are no easy answers. The first thing to do is be polite with the officer. Defensive motorists are much more likely to be cited.
If the officer suspects a motorist is intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs, the officer may request to administer a battery or field sobriety tests. These tests vary from department to department across the State of Wisconsin, but may include the Horizontal Gaze Nastygmus Test (follow the flight with your eyes), One Leg Stand Test, Heel to Toe Walk Test, Touch Your Nose Test, Alphabet Test (without singing), etc. These tests are used to gain evidence against a motorist suspected of OWI. During the stop, and throughout admission of these tests the officer will note the smell of alcohol on your breath, whether your eyes are bloodshot, your speech is slurred, and whether you have full balance. If you have any doubt about your ability to complete field sobriety tests, I would recommend that a motorist refuse them. 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 take a preliminary breath test, or PBT. This is a small device with a straw that a motorist blows into, which can detect the presence of alcohol. PBT results are highly inaccurate and are not admissible in court. You may refuse to take a preliminary breath test, however your refusal may be used in court as evidence against you.
The Chemical Test and Implied Consent
In Wisconsin, when you apply for a Drivers License, every person signs a form which grants consent to have your blood, breath or urine checked for the presence of alcohol or other drugs. 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 could take the form of a blood draw at the hospital, a breathalyzer test at the police station, or the taking of a 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 6 months. Additionally, the fines can be staggering. On second and subsequent offenses, jail time is 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 which may result in a prison sentence.
Can an Attorney Help?
When you are charged with drunk driving, 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, but it is imperative that you protect your license from the beginning.