LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Dennis Michael Melowski | Jul 7, 2010

Wisconsin DUI Laws... 10 Things that Might Surprise You.

10) The police are watching you---probably right now.

Whether you are at a local tavern, a music festival, or a Packer game, the police monitor vehicles leaving places alcohol is being served. While officers cannot lawfully pull you over just because they see you leave such a place, they can follow your vehicle until you commit the most minor traffic violation to justify checking you out. Officers will also run license plate numbers of parked vehicles to see if you have an expired registration or suspended license. If you do,they have a reason to stop you if you get in the vehicle and drive.

9) Pulling over to the side of the road or into a parking lot to "sleep it off" does not mean you cannot be prosecuted for DUI.

“Operating" a motor vehicle for DUI purposes means activating any of the controls of the vehicle necessary to put it in motion. This can be as simple as turning the key to the “accessory" position. If you find yourself having to pull over because you can no longer drive safely, it is best to do so immediately and call someone to pick you up. If this is not possible, it is best to remove the keys from the ignition and stash them some place, preferably where only you can find them. It is also best to get to the back seat to sleep. However, these are only preventive measures. A DUI case can still be made if someone witnessed you drive or if you admit that you drove (see number 7).

8) Refusing to submit to field sobriety tests will automatically lead to your arrest.

Refusing sobriety tests gives the officer probable cause to arrest you. A refusal to submit to these tests is "consciousness of guilt evidence," meaning you refused the tests because you knew you had too much to drink to be able to pass them. If you have a physical problem that might prohibit you from successfully completing the tests, it is best to make the problem known to the officer prior to attempting the tests. You should be as specific as possible, repeatedly asserting your concern to the officer. Thus, if you had knee surgery last year, say that. Officers should offer alternative tests (usually verbal) if a physical problem might interfere with the requested test. Remember, however, that officers frequently demand that you try the tests anyway, despite any physical problems you have brought to their attention.

7)Say as little as possible to the police during your contact with them.

Being argumentative, rude or combative with the police will almost always make things worse, so it is always best to be courteous and respectful. But that does not mean that you should go out of your way to spill your guts. While it is usually harmless to admit you had something to drink, it is usually best not to get specific. Remember, you have the absolute right to remain silent. You are under no obligation to provide officers with any information about your whereabouts or activities. Your silence cannot be used against you in court. When in doubt, keeping your mouth shut is usually a good rule of thumb.

6) Your house is not a safe haven----but it can be.

The fact that you have made it home does not mean you are safe from a DUI arrest. If the police come to your house and you answer questions about whether you drove or how long you've been home, you may be nailing your own coffin. However, if you know your rights and assert them properly, you may be able to help yourself. If you have made it home and the police knock on your door because of a report from another driver, or because they found your car in a ditch, you are under no obligation to answer your door. In fact, in most cases, it is best not to. The police have no authority to enter your home in this situation unless they have a warrant OR you have given them permission. If you do answer the door and the police want to come in, you have the right to deny them entry. However, you need to specifically tell the police that you are not giving them consent to enter. A wishy-washy answer, or a failure to object if they start to come in, can be construed as consent. So be clear: "I am not permitting you to enter this house." But try not to answer the door in the first place!

5) You are obligated by law to submit to a breath, blood or urine test if lawfully arrested for operating while intoxicated.

Like most states, Wisconsin has an "Implied Consent Law." This means that you have already consented to a chemical test simply by driving a vehicle on Wisconsin roads. The law also provides that it is unlawful for you to withdraw your consent. If you do refuse a chemical test, in most cases your driving privileges will be revoked, typically for longer than the DUI charge itself. Moreover, the cops can forcibly draw your blood for testing. As scary as this sounds, the Supreme Court has given the police the authority to hold you down to get a sample of your blood following a DUI arrest. This means they can get the evidence anyway, despite your "refusal." The bottom line is this: in most cases, it is best not to refuse. If you do, a hearing to prevent an automatic revocation of your license will need to be requested within 10 days of the refusal. Acting quickly is critical in refusal cases.

4) You do not get to decide which chemical test you will take----until you have submitted to the test dictated by the officer who arrested you.

Many people believe they can choose which type of test they get following their arrest. This is not the case. The officer determines the initial test. Once you have submitted to that test, you can request an alternative test the police are obligated to give you at their expense. You also have the right, after taking the officer's test, to request that a qualified person of your own conduct a test. However, you will have to arrange and pay for that test. Keep in mind, if you were given a roadside breath test, this test does not count for court purposes. Therefore, you need to submit to the officer's requested test following your arrest to trigger your right to an alternative or additional test.

3) You do not have the right to legal advice prior to submitting to the chemical test.

If you ask for a lawyer to help you decide whether or not to take the test, the police do not have to honor such a request. In fact, persisting in a request for a lawyer can be deemed by the officer as a "refusal" to submit to the test, exposing you to more penalties. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has held there is no “right to counsel" if you are asked by an officer to submit to a chemical test following a DUI arrest.

2) Your license can be suspended before you've even gone to court.

If a chemical test shows an alcohol level above the legal limit, your license can be suspended for 6 months based on that fact alone--even if you haven't been to court yet. Usually, this suspension happens 30 days from the date the prohibited alcohol level is determined. To prevent this suspension ,a hearing needs to be requested within a very short time, so it is best to contact a qualified lawyer quickly to know just what to do.

1) A DUI conviction can ruin your life.

In addition to being extremely dangerous, driving drunk can ruin your career, tarnish your reputation and haunt you for years to come. Of all the information here, this is the most important: don't risk driving while intoxicated. It just isn't worth it.

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