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Do you have questions re field sobriety tests? Many motorists do.

| Apr 15, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Could you stand with one foot off the ground for half a minute without appreciably swaying even once or without even momentarily tapping that foot back down onto the surface to regain balance?

Many people might reasonably find that, while doing so might seem simple, it is actually a far more difficult task to perform than readily envisioned.

Especially if a Wisconsin police officer or state trooper is demanding that such an attempt be made on a roadside, with failure potentially leading to some materially adverse consequences.

Many people have likely heard of field sobriety tests, even if they’ve never been asked to perform them. In Wisconsin, that battery of “exams” sometimes surfaces when motorists are alleged to be operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. An authoritative Wisconsin legal source on driving-linked criminal charges duly notes that, “Law enforcement can arrest you for an OWI if your BAC [blood-alcohol content] is over .08 or if you perform poorly on field sobriety tests.”

What is the Standardized Field Sobriety Test?

A quick caveat is necessarily inserted prior to a discussion of the oft-referred-to SFST. The roadside exercise is actually optional; a motorist requested to perform the test’s various prongs can decline to do so.

And that is often a sound decision. The national group FieldSobrietyTests.org underscores the likelihood of failure for many motorists and the potential for arrest based solely on what is a subjective evaluation.

Note: Evidence of SFST failure is routinely introduced by prosecutors as incriminating evidence in OWI cases.

Here are the three components of the SFST:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test (examination of eye movement for a subject tracking an object from side to side, with a law enforcer looking for exaggerated and involuntarily jerking of the eyes)
  • Walk-and-turn test, with a subject following specified commands while trying to maintain a measured gait and a straight line
  • The aforementioned one-leg stand test

Although law enforcers typically laud the SFST’s alleged objectivity and its accurate assessment of alcohol impairment, legions of motorists who have taken and failed the tests over many years find extreme fault with it.

In fact, notes the AAA-authored DUI Justice Link, “There are many factors that might render a person unable to successfully complete one of more of the SFSTs”. Some people have joint/arthritic conditions that make physical movements challenging under the best of circumstances. Others have debilitating optical conditions that can make any eye exam problematic. “Age, injury or disease” might singly or together foster questionable results linked with field sobriety tests.

Questions or concerns regarding such tests or any other issues tied to a drinking-related charge and arrest can be directed to a proven criminal defense legal team.