Green Bay OWI Defense Attorneys

Getting pulled over for operating a vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance can happen to almost anyone. It will also likely be one of the most stressful, embarrassing and unpleasant experiences of your life. Review the tips below in order to be better prepared should you find yourself in this situation and be sure to contact the attorneys at Czachor, Polack & Borchardt Law for an individualized assessment of your situation.

   1. What do I do before the Officer pulls me over?

As soon as a police officer activates his flashing lights in an attempt to pull over your vehicle, slow down. This will signal to the officer that you are aware you are being pulled over. Next, look for a place to pull over your vehicle. If possible, choose to pull over in a well-lighted parking lot or shoulder that is out of the heavy flow of traffic. Officers generally appreciate drivers who pull over in a location where it is safe for the officer to approach the vehicle and, because your encounter with police may be recorded, it is best to make sure the area is well lit in order to assess the officer's performance and conformity with the law. After pulling over, remain in your vehicle.

   2. What do I do after I get pulled over?

Do not get out of your car. Put your hands on the steering wheel so they are in plain view and do your best to remain calm. The officer will be looking for signs of impairment, such as fidgeting, difficulty speaking, the inability to follow commands, etc. (all of which will be more pronounced if you panic). It is important to be respectful and polite to the officer who approaches your vehicle; being rude, argumentative or hostile will almost always make the situation worse. Never lie or argue, and never attempt to resist, flee and/or obstruct the officer.

Wait until the officer speaks before saying anything yourself. The officer will likely ask you for your license, registration and proof of insurance and you should produce them upon the officer's request. Keep in mind you are not required to answer any questions asked by law enforcement and you should expressly avoid making any statement that admits your guilt. Remember, you have the absolute right to remain silent.

Additionally, unless the officer has a warrant, they are generally not permitted to search your vehicle unless you give them consent to do so. Therefore, do not agree to have your vehicle searched.

   3. While you have the right to refuse field sobriety testing as well as a preliminary roadside breath test, doing so may give officers probable cause to arrest you.

If an officer suspects that you have been operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, they need to obtain probable cause before they can arrest you. In doing so, the officer will be looking for signs of impairment and will likely ask you to submit to a series of tests.

Generally, the officer will first request that you perform a series of field sobriety tests. While you have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, doing so may give the officer probable cause to arrest you (this will largely depend on what other evidence and signs of intoxication are present). There are three main field sobriety tests used by law enforcement, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN), the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg-stand test. When administering these tests, the officer is required to follow a strict set of rules and any variation from these rules, or any other type of deficiency by the officer, may call into question the officer's ability to accurately detect intoxicated drivers and ultimately the test results. Therefore, while it is best to follow the officer's instructions, do not attempt to aid or seek direction from the officer in any way... let the officer make his own mistakes, because more than likely, he will.

The officer may also ask you to submit to a preliminary roadside breath test. Similar to your right to refuse a field sobriety test, you also have the right to refuse a preliminary breath test (prior to being arrested), but keep in mind that you may still be arrested based on other evidence that is present and refusing the test may aid in an officer's establishment of probable cause to arrest you. Once the test is completed, the officer will use the results to determine whether or not to arrest you and/or whether or not to perform a further chemical test. The good news is that the results of the preliminary roadside breath test are not admissible in court to prove that you were in fact under the influence (however, it can be admitted to show that the officer had probable cause for your arrest).

   4. What do I do after I get arrested?

Upon being arrested, law enforcement is required to read you your Miranda Rights, which include the right to remain silent. You should exercise this right immediately. Officers will likely attempt to elicit information from you and continue to ask you questions. Do not answer any questions asked by law enforcement. Rather, continually reference your right to remain silent and demand that you be allowed to contact an attorney.

   5. Once placed under arrest, you are obligated to submit to a chemical test if demanded by law enforcement and you do not have the right to an attorney before doing so.

Wisconsin has adopted the Implied Consent Law. This law means that by operating a vehicle on Wisconsin roadways, you have automatically given consent for law enforcement to test your breath, blood or urine for the presence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance when you are placed under arrest. If you refuse to take the chemical test, you will be convicted of a separate crime and your driving privileges will be revoked for at least one year. Unfortunately, you do not have the right to an attorney prior to taking this test. In fact, continued demand for an attorney will likely be interpreted as a refusal to take the test, subjecting you to the additional charge and penalties previously mentioned.

   6. Do I have the right to have a second test completed?

Yes. As stated above, after being arrested you are required by law to submit to one or more tests of the officers choosing. Refusing these tests will lead to additional charges and penalties. However, after you have completed these tests, you have two options for additional testing which law enforcement cannot refuse you. First, you have the option of demanding an alternative test which law enforcement must provide at their expense. Law enforcement has the ability to choose what type of test will be administered and where, and you are obligated to accept their choice. Second, you have the right to demand a separate test. This test can be of your choosing, at a place of your choosing and is completely at your own expense. It must be performed within three (3) hours of your arrest. Law enforcement is not obligated to aid you in any way in the completion of this separate test. Keep in mind that these additional testing options are mutually exclusive, meaning you have the right to choose option one or option two, but not both.

   7. Why did I get two tickets?

There are two common alcohol-related driving offenses in Wisconsin. The first is operating while under the influence of an intoxicant ("OWI") and the second is operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration ("PAC"). The two offense are slightly different. An OWI conviction requires that your ability to operate a motor vehicle was materially impaired due to your consumption of alcohol and/or a controlled substance. A PAC conviction simply requires that your alcohol concentration was over the legal limit at the time of operating a motor vehicle.

   8. What if I wasn't driving?

You can be prosecuted for an OWI offense even if you weren't actually driving the vehicle. "Operating" simply means activating any of the controls necessary to put a vehicle in motion. Among other things, this can be as simple as turning the key to the accessory position. Therefore, if you plan to "sleep it off" in your vehicle, it is best not to turn on the heat, radio, etc. and you should remain in the back seat of the vehicle rather than the front driver or passenger seats.

   9. What do I do next?

Contact the trusted attorneys at Czachor, Polack & Borchardt Law. We offer a free consultation designed to assess your specific situation and circumstances. Our attorneys are trained using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) manuals, which are the same standardized training manuals utilized by police training academies throughout the nation. Our attorneys are trained to spot deficiencies in police performance and other law enforcement failures during the course of your OW I arrest in order to obtain the best possible result for each individual situation.