By Carlos Gamino

When the police pull someone over for drunk driving in Wisconsin, they often ask the driver to take a field sobriety test. The field sobriety test gives the police a way to measure whether you appear to be drunk or under the influence of drugs – but it’s not as simple as walking in a straight line and getting back into your car. At the end of a sobriety test, you could find yourself in the back of a police cruiser. Here’s what you need to know.

Field Sobriety Testing: What You Need to Know

Before a police officer even asks you to take a field sobriety test, they’re watching and listening to you. When the officer asks for your license and registration, they’re keeping an eye on whether you’re fumbling, nervous, moving slowly or sloppily, and listening for signs of intoxication in your speech. If the officer suspects you’ve been drinking (after seeing your driving, that is), they’ll ask you to take a field sobriety test.

Police officers use field sobriety testing to determine whether you seem like you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are many things the police can do to gauge your sobriety, but some of the most common field sobriety tests include:

  • The nystagmus test
  • The one-leg test
  • The walk-and-turn test

Here’s a closer look at each.

The Nystagmus Test

The nystagmus test can signal that a person is intoxicated. During this test, the officer asks you to look at something (such as the tip of a pen or a small flashlight). The police officer will move the small object from side to side and asks you to watch it move. That’s because when a person is intoxicated, their gaze often becomes jerky. If yours is jerky, or if you can’t keep track of the object, the officer may think you’re drunk.

Related: Drunk driving charges

The One-Leg Test

Balancing on one leg can be tough when you’ve had too much to drink – and that’s exactly why police use this to gauge a person’s intoxication level. The police officer may ask you to stand on one leg for 30 seconds, and if you hop, flail your arms, or put your foot down once or twice, it may indicate that you’ve been drinking. (But just for the record, you’re not alone if you couldn’t balance for 30 seconds – especially if you’re nervous. Our team has a tough time balancing, too.)

Related: Felony drunk driving in Wisconsin

The Walk-and-Turn Test

Police officers know that intoxicated people tend to stumble, drag their feet or take choppy steps while walking regularly, so they put a twist on it for a field sobriety test: They often ask people to take a specific number of heel-to-toe steps, turn around in a specific way, and then take the same number of heel-to-toe steps on the way back. If you have a tough time balancing, lose count of the steps, pivot the wrong way or stumble, the officer may think you’ve had too many cocktails to drive.

Related: DUI causing injury or vehicular homicide

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Field Sobriety Testing and OWI?

If you were arrested for OWI with or without a field sobriety test, we may be able to help you get the best possible outcome in your case. Call our office at 414-383-6700 to schedule your free consultation now – we can give you the advice (and peace of mind) you need.

Attorney Carlos Gamino