Being pulled over by police can be a frightening and incredibly stressful event for anyone. The lights, the sirens, the uniforms... it's all enough to send some people into a state of panic.
Though it may be challenging, it is crucial you do your best to stay calm and respectful throughout this event to help ensure you do not inadvertently do anything to make your legal matters worse later on.
This article will present 8 important points or wake-up calls to keep in mind if you are pulled over by police for suspicion of operating under the influence of an intoxicant or OWI in Wisconsin.
To learn more about OWI charges in Wisconsin, read the following articles by Stangl Law:
- "What to Do if Your Teen is Arrested for OWI in Wisconsin"
- "Penalties of Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Wisconsin"
- "15 Ways to Beat a Drunk Driving Case in Wisconsin"
Wake-Up Call #1: Sober Drivers Can be Pulled Over for OWI in Wisconsin
It's not uncommon for sober drivers to be pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving in Wisconsin. After all, police have no way of knowing if a car moving past is being driven by an intoxicated person or not, until they stop and investigate.
Police make the decision to pull drivers over based primarily on cues in driving behavior they observe. You may be completely sober, but something in your driving (a swerve, going too slow, going too fast, etc.) can be enough to attract the attention of law enforcement.
Wake-Up Call #2: There is No Evidence of OWI--Yet
If the police pull you over for suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI) in Wisconsin, it's important to keep in mind it is only that--a suspicion. The officer only suspects you may be intoxicated and likely has no evidence of that--yet.
Say as little as possible, but remain calm and polite during your traffic stop. You do not want to do anything which might bring about additional charges or complicate your case.
Wake-Up Call #3: Beware of Field Sobriety Tests
Enter field sobriety tests. These seemingly harmless little tests police ask you to perform during a traffic stop are actually tools police officers use in an attempt to prove their suspicions, thereby justifying the traffic stop and creating evidence to use against you.
While police may ask you to perform any number or combination of tests, the most common field sobriety tests include:
- The breath test or breathalyzer in the field
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus test
- The walk-and-turn test
- The one-leg stand test
By choosing to submit to any of these tests or others like these, understand you are also choosing to assist police as they attempt to establish evidence against you of OWI--something you are not required by Wisconsin law to do.
Wake-Up Call #4: You Have the Right to Refuse FSTs
What you may not know is, unless you have a commercial driver's license or CDL, you have the legal right to refuse field sobriety tests--including the breathalyzer, when it is presented during a traffic stop. You may still be arrested, but you will not have aided in the creation of potentially inaccurate evidence to be used against you later in court.
"Many people in Wisconsin––if they're pulled over for suspicion of operating while under the influence of an intoxicant––don't realize that they are not legally required to do field sobriety tests."
- Attorney Patrick Stangl
Remember to stay calm, respectful and polite when refusing field sobriety tests.
Wake-Up Call #5: Field Sobriety Tests are Easy to Fail
If you're tempted to take sobriety tests because you're confident you're not intoxicated and believe by taking sobriety tests you will be proved innocent of OWI, think again.
Field sobriety tests are notorious for being subjective and inaccurate. From the long and complicated verbal instructions you are given ahead of time and expected to remember, to the actual performance of these tests, it's easy to imagine making mistakes when you consider the following influencing factors:
- Poor balance
- Health conditions (hypoglycemia, diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, etc.)
- Being tired
- Poor memory
- Traffic noise
- Environmental factors
- Officer error
Before volunteering to participate, remember you have the legal right to refuse.
Wake-Up Call #6: Failing Field Sobriety Tests Creates Evidence Against You
If you choose to participate in field sobriety testing and fail--based on the officer's interpretation of his or her observations--you've likely confirmed the officer's speculation, creating evidence against yourself in the process.
Before rolling the dice, think twice: by agreeing to take sobriety tests during a traffic stop, you risk unwittingly creating evidence to be used against you, complicating your OWI case in Wisconsin.
Wake-Up Call #7: What to Expect if You Refuse Field Sobriety Testing in Wisconsin
If you choose to exercise your legal right to refuse field sobriety tests, you will likely be arrested on the spot. Do not panic.
Remember, by refusing FSTs, you are not risking creating potentially false evidence which could be used to support OWI charges against you. While you may be arrested after refusing FSTs, you are only being arrested for suspicion of OWI.
Once you have been arrested, you no longer have the right to refuse breath or chemical testing in the form of blood or urine tests and must consent to this testing once you are at the police station or clinic as a requirement of implied consent in Wisconsin.
Wake-Up Call #8: The Right Lawyer Can Help You
The final and most important point to keep in mind, is your 6th Amendment right to counsel. This means you are legally entitled to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you are able to.
If you were arrested because you refused sobriety tests in the field, you have already taken an important step to help an aggressive and knowledgeable OWI attorney better defend you against OWI charges in Wisconsin.
Regardless of the circumstances of your OWI arrest in Wisconsin, you should consult a proven Wisconsin DUI attorney immediately to explore your defense options.
FREE 15-Minute Consultation
Attorney Pat Stangl is pleased to make available to you at no obligation a FREE 15-Minute Consultation to discuss the details of your case and help you explore options for your defense.