Question

Can I Refuse The Field Sobriety Tests In Wisconsin?

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David K. Anderson - Criminal Defense - Super Lawyers

Answered by: David K. Anderson

Located in Madison, WIAnderson & O'Connell SC

Madison, WI
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Answer

Yes. 

However, as with many issues in the legal field, the answer in practice is slightly more complicated. It is important to note the distinction between the tests that are conducted in the field and those conducted at the police station after an arrest has been made. 

Tests Conducted In The Field 

Field sobriety tests, properly understood, are tests used by the police while they are literally in the field (not in the police station) to determine whether someone is intoxicated. 

These tests can include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (examining involuntary eye movements), the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test and, of course, the breathalyzer test, which judges the actual blood alcohol content in the subject. 

If you have been stopped by a police officer and he or she is asking you to perform these tests, it is legal for you to refuse. You will not face additional criminal charges or other legal consequences. 

However, as a practical matter, the police can use your refusal to take the tests to establish probable cause to arrest you for intoxicated driving. In context and in the totality of the circumstances, the police officer can use your refusal as part of the reason for arresting you. 

Tests Conducted At The Police Station 

Although you can refuse the field sobriety tests without legal consequence, the same is not true for the tests taken back at the station. 

After you have been arrested for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), the police will generally take you back to the station and have you take a breath test, a blood test or both. 

It is critical to note that there are more serious consequences for refusing the sobriety tests when not in the field. You could have your license suspended, you could face other penalties, and the police can use this refusal to build a case against you. 

Conclusion 

You will not face additional criminal charges for refusing to take field sobriety tests, though it is a risky choice. Refusing sobriety tests at the police station after an arrest can be met with significant repercussions. 

If you have been arrested for OWI in Wisconsin, the best thing you can do is contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to get the legal protection and representation you need.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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