How would an officer know I am drunk on a lake?  Being on the water can throw of a person’s equilibrium.  Some areas of waterway do not have posted speed limits, so driving fast or slow is not reason enough for a stop by the water patrol.  Wisconsin does not have laws about drinking on the lake so having an open beverage on the boat does not give water patrol reason to pull someone over.   There are other environmental conditions that make it difficult to determine impairment on a boat.

Once a boater has been pulled over by water patrol, it is very time consuming to bring the boater to land, acclimate from the water to land, and then perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.  Recent research has shown there are four Field Sobriety Tests that may be used on the water.  These FST’s are conducted on the patrol boat, with the boater seated while performing the tests.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

Although a person may have an involuntary jerking of the eyes due to Prescribed Medications or another medical condition, this jerking can also be due to impairment cause by alcohol or inhalants.  The HGN test each eye for three cues, for a total of 6.  A person showing 4 or more cues is likely to be under the influence of an intoxicant.

Finger to Nose (FTN)

The boater, while in a seated position, is given direction of extending the index finger of each hand (at direction) and using it to touch the tip of his/her nose.  Once the patrol officer gives instruction to begin, the boater will touch the tip of his/her nose with the hand the officer directs him/her to use.

Palm Pat (PP)

The boater is asked to extend both arms in front of him/her with the palm of one hand facing up, and the other hand on top of the first (palms touching).  The boater is then asked to move the top hand in a rotating motion (180 degrees) and pats the bottom hand.  The boater will alternate between the palm of the hand and top of the hand while counting out loud “one-two, one-two, etc.”  Keeping an even pace or slowing down is sign of impairment.

Hand Coordination (HC)

This test is similar to the Standardized Walk-and-Turn Test, using the hands instead of the feet.  The boater is asked to make a fist with each hand.  The left hand is placed with the thumb on the sternum.  The right hand is placed directly in front of the left (the hand should be touching).  The boater is asked to move one hand in front of the other counting out loud to four.  The boater will clap his/her hands three times, and then place his/her fists in the last position.  Counting from five through eight, the boater will move his/her hands back towards the body.  The left hand should be on the body (or back into starting position), and then placing hands palm down on his/her lap.

Hiring a Wisconsin BUI Defense Attorney

If you have received a BUI, be sure to contact an experienced Wisconsin BUI Defense Attorney.  Contact Attorney Nathan J. Dineen of Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. at 1-877-384-6800 or complete a Free Case Review.  Keep your summer safe, and think before you drink and drive a boat.

Nathan J. Dineen