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Field sobriety tests may be unreliable

Being convicted of an OWI in Wisconsin can be accompanied by serious penalties including costly fines, revocation of your driver’s license and even jail time, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. When a person is stopped by authorities who suspect him or her of drinking and driving, a field sobriety test may be performed. These tests are done to establish probable cause for an arrest. However, here at Craig Kuhary, Attorney at Law, we know that due to the subjective nature of a field sobriety test, it can be successfully challenged in the courtroom.

People who struggle with poor balance, inner ear problems or other health problems may have trouble passing field sobriety tests even when they have had nothing to drink.  Law enforcement officers are trained to use their own judgment and this can lead to mistakes in determining a person’s sobriety level.  This was evident in a study where a group of officers were tested by watching a film of people taking filed sobriety tests.  After watching the film, it was determined that the people on film were under the influence of alcohol, according to 46 percent of the officers.  However, the truth was that every person filmed was completely sober.

The way authorities are supposed to administer field sobriety tests is very specific. Here in Wisconsin, the majority of police departments use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s manual on administering the test. This manual dictates that the test should be performed on dry, even pavement. There are also a number of other specific instructions on the proper procedures to follow; any of which that are done incorrectly may result in the test being invalid. When this occurs, the test results may be thrown out and any DUI charges or convictions that resulted could be dismissed.

If you would like to learn more about drunk driving defense and field sobriety tests, please visit our web page.  

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