Field Sobriety Tests - Standardized and other

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

See also DUI / OWI / DWI / Drunk Driving Stop in Wisconsin.

I am certified to administer field sobriety tests in Wisconsin; I've taken and passed the same training as the police officers in the field. There are three "standardized field sobriety tests" in use in Wisconsin. "Standardized" means that they have been tested as to reliability and accuracy by an authority. It doesn't mean that they work. None of them is all that accurate or reliable! None have been validated for drug detection although officers often try to use them for that.

Here are videos of these three standardized tests. You'll need a flashplayer add-in to your browser to see them.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (you are getting very sleepy)


Here is a real nystagmus test, done by a neurologist:

Walk and turn or heel-to-toe test

One-leg stand - or Can you count from one-thousand-one to one-thousand thirty?



Non-Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

These can be anything, from saying the alphabet backwards, or part of the alphabet to what Steve Martin showed in the movie "The Man With Two Brains."



Even many sober people can't pass the standardized tests, much less those that are shown in this movie. If you have had to do any of these tests, sit down as soon as you can and make notes about the tests and conditions under which you were asked to take the tests. Remember that if your shoes are likely to cause you trouble you should ask if you can do the test without them.

Here is another comedic view of field sobriety tests. It illustrates the idea that something can seem very easy if you've been trained on it and practiced it. Not so easy for someone trying to follow instructions. I've been told by someone I respect that this is no more difficult than the standard tests - just a matter of following instructions. Right!

If you want to see the science (or lack thereof) behind these tests, you might want to see this Statistical Analysis. In the studies used to validate these tests, almost a third of the people officers decided to arrest based on the tests were under the legal limit.

I advise against taking these tests. You do not have to take them. They are designed for people to fail, even when sober. See  DUI / OWI / DWI / Drunk Driving Stop in Wisconsin - procedure. Note, our Court of Appeals says you can't pass these tests.

Here is an analysis by three Illinois lawyers of an Iowa stop. As they discuss, there is no benefit to you from taking the tests.


For more thoughts on what goes into defending against one of these tickets see my page on how to beat a Wisconsin OWI / DUI / Drunk Driving Ticket. If you are looking at a third offense, see DUI / OWI Treatment Court Dane County Wisconsin.

General thoughts (and videos) on talking to the police and what to do when you are stopped and they want to search.



Warning - Use at your own risk.

This page is not intended to be legal advice or substitute for legal advice. It is intended to provide general information. Legal advice can only be given with a full understanding of the actual facts of a case, generally in a face-to-face consultation. Note that there are exceptions to many of the statements made here. No one should act or refrain from acting in court based on anything stated in this web page. My office does not give legal advice to non-clients over the phone or internet. Further, the law (and procedures) in criminal cases are changing rapidly. This page reflects procedures in place in Dane County, Wisconsin, on August 31, 2011.

See also:

DUI / OWI / Drunk Driving Cases - How this office approaches DUI / OWI cases. The need for an assessment and / or treatment along with competent legal assistance is discussed.

DUI / OWI Treatment Court - an option that must be considered in Dane County for some third-offense cases

DUI / OWI (Drunk Driving) Wisconsin Ten Day Warning - Why a defendant needs to take action before the court process even gets going.

DUI / OWI / Drunk Driving Math in Wisconsin - What Counts as a prior offense?

Wisconsin Judicial Sentencing Guidelines for OWI / DUI / Drunk Driving cases by County. (Each judicial district has different guidelines.)

DUI / OWI / Drunk Driving Training of Attorney Charles Kenyon in Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin - some of the advanced training in drunk driving defense take by Attorney Charles Kenyon

List of Ignition Interlock Device Providers in Wisconsin

Dane County Wisconsin Court Brochures


Charles Kyle Kenyon - When Experience Matters

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Attorney at Law Scales of Justice - copyright 1995 - Madison Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer (attorney) Charles Kenyon
5555 Odana Road, Suite 211
Madison, WI  53719-1280

Telephone (608) 308-9645

Since 1979

Former (Elected) District Attorney
Former Assistant State Public Defender
Extensive jury trial experience in cases ranging from traffic to sexual assault / homicide
Thousands of criminal cases since 1979
Appeals in Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Supreme Court

J.D. University of Wisconsin Law School 1978 - winner of Abe Sigman prizeCovid19PlanForReopening2022-03.pdf
B.A. University of Wisconsin - Madison - Psychology - 1975
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Trainer / presenter / panelist for American Bar Association, National College of District Attorneys, Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Public Defender
Certified to administer roadside Field Sobriety Tests in Wisconsin
Graduate Vehicular Homicide / DWI Program, Northwestern University Center for Public Safety
Past-President: Marinette County Bar Association, Door-Kewaunee Bar Association
Life Member: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
Member: Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL)
Member: National College for DUI Defense
Member: DUI Defense Lawyers Association
Member: State Bar of Wisconsin, Dane County Bar Association
Admitted to practice: State of Wisconsin, Federal - Eastern District of Wisconsin, Western District of Wisconsin, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

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This page last revised: 19 Oct 2023 15:32:59 -0400 .

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