When a Wisconsin officer has reason to believe a driver is impaired, the officer will have the driver perform Field Sobriety Tests. Some people have misconceptions of these tests because the media portrays the tests as a straight line walk, touch your nose, and say the alphabet backwards. In reality, there are three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) that should be done by an officer in Wisconsin during the pre-screening process of detecting intoxication of a drunk driver. Although a few Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests may be used, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the Walk-and-Turn test, and the One-Leg Stand test, test are the three most accurate tests for detection of intoxication. As a Certified Wisconsin DUI Defense attorney, Attorney Nathan J. Dineen has the experience and training necessary to evaluate Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)
This test is designed to check the eyes for the horizontal jerking of the eyes, which occurs involuntarily when under the influence of an intoxicant. During this test, the officer will hold a stimulus (i.e. a pen or the officer’s finger) in front of a person and ask them to follow the stimulus with the eyes. The following are the three (3) clues the officer looks for in each eye:
Lack of Smooth Pursuit – The officer will look to determine whether the eyes move smoothly or if the eyes are jerking when following the stimulus.
Distinct and Sustained Nystagmus at Maximum Deviation – When a person’s eye reaches maximum deviation, the eye will jerk involuntarily, even in an unimpaired person. This slight jerkiness is slight and may not even be seen by the naked eye. However, a person who is impaired will have a more pronounced jerking in his/her eyes, and will last for a longer duration.
Onset of Nystagmus Prior to 45 Degrees – A person whose eyes begin jerking prior to reaching a 45 degree angle is more likely to be impaired. The earlier the onset, the more impaired the person.
The officer looks for these clues in each eye, for a total of six (6) clues. An officer is taught that 4 of 6 clues is indication of impairment.
This is typically the second test an officer will administer when determining intoxication. This test is given in two phases. The first phase is the instruction stage. The officer will ask the driver to stand in the starting position while giving verbal instructions and demonstrating. The second phase is the walking stage, in which the driver must walk nine (9) steps on a line (real or imaginary), turn as instructed, and walk nine (9) steps back to the starting position. There are eight (8) clues an officer will look for during both phases of this test: 1. Whether the driver maintains balance during the instructions, 2. The driver begins the test before instruction, 3. Stops while walking, 4. The steps are not heel-to-toe, 5. Steps off the line, 6. Uses arms for balance, 7. Does not turn properly, 8. Incorrect number of steps. The total number of cues an officer needs to observe to “prove” impairment is 2 of 8.
One-Leg Stand (OLS)
This test also has two phases, the instructional phase and the performance phase. The officer will instruct the driver to stand with his/her feet together, arms at his/her side. When the officer instructs the driver to begin the test, the driver will raise his/her foot 6 inches above the ground while keeping the leg straight and the foot parallel to the ground. The driver is instructed to count out loud from 1-30 in a one-thousand format (i.e. one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, etc.). The officer will look for four (4) clues: 1. Swaying, 2. Using arms for balance, 3. Hopping, 4. Putting the foot on the ground. An officer will need 2 of 4 clues to indicate impairment.
Hiring a Wisconsin DUI Attorney
These tests have reliability and validity only if the officer properly administered these tests. The best way to determine the proper administration of these tests is to hire a Certified DUI Defense Attorney who will be able to effectively Evaluate the Administration of SFST’s. Attorney Nathan J. Dineen of Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. is certified in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE). There are very few attorneys in Wisconsin certified in SFST, and those attorneys who are trained have been through the same training, if not more, than most police officers arresting you for drunk driving.
If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI in Wisconsin, contact Attorney Nathan J. Dineen at 1-877-384-6800 or complete a Free Case Review Online. Think before you drink, because it is your license, your reputation, and possibly your future at stake…