Patrolman Zak Slivinski, (left) and Lt. John Corry test out a new field sobriety test on volunteer Penny Bromund, Porterfield, Thursday at the Marinette County Law Enforcement Center. The test can be given when someone is seated. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Patrolman Zak Slivinski, (left) and Lt. John Corry test out a new field sobriety test on volunteer Penny Bromund, Porterfield, Thursday at the Marinette County Law Enforcement Center. The test can be given when someone is seated. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MARINETTE - Drunken driving has long been a serious problem in northeast Wisconsin. To crack down on the potentially deadly activity, law enforcement officials have been utilizing every tool at their disposal, and, in terms of enforcing the state's drunken driving laws, the Marinette Police Department is well ahead of the curve.
 
Last week, every MPD officer became certified to perform a new field sobriety test. Using some of the same eye and coordination protocols of the standard field sobriety test, the new test now allows officers to evaluate a seated - rather than standing - individual to determine whether or not the subject is fit to drive.

Wisconsin Conservation Warden Dave Oginski and Marinette Police Sgt. Scott Ries conducted two full days of the new training Tuesday and Thursday at the Marinette County Law Enforcement Center.

In order to certify the officers to perform seated field sobriety test, the police solicited drinking volunteers from the community. The test subjects consumed alcohol before undergoing a battery of testing.

Oginski explained that the new seated tests - which were originally designed for use on the water, where standing and walking field sobriety tests are impossible - have a number of applications on land as well.

"As long as they can sit, they can do the seated battery," Oginski said, explaining that often times an injury or weather conditions prevent a subject from being able to perform the standard field sobriety test. 

"Just because you can't walk doesn't mean you're dodging the field sobriety test," he pointed out.

According to Ries, the Marinette Police Department became only the second law enforcement agency in the state certified to perform seated field sobriety testing.

Ries explained that suspected drunken drivers sometimes claim that knee or back pain prevent then from being able to complete the standard sobriety test, but with the new test, those claims are thrown out the window.

"It kind of takes peoples excuses away for not being able to do the test," Ries said. 

According to Ries, last week's certification seminars went "very well." He said the volunteer drinking group did a great job and the all of the officers were accepting of the new testing procedures.

Oginski said the bottom line is that no matter which field sobriety test is used - standing or seated - a law enforcement agent is now able to arrive at the correct decision of whether or not make an arrest.

Both Ries and Oginski, however, said they prefer the "arrest/no arrest" equation never comes into play in the first place.

"The big thing is, we're just wanting folks to make sure that they're safe on the roadways, safe on the trail, and thinking about driving, not drinking - making sure they're being safe," Oginski said.

Ries reminded that the Marinette County OWI task will again be on the lookout for drunken drivers this weekend and advised everyone on the county's roadways to drive safe and drive sober.