The walk and turn test is one of three standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The test is administered to detect if a suspect is drunk driving or under the influence of drugs by evaluating coordination, balance, and the ability to follow verbal directions. 

This common test is more complex than it seems. It can be easy to make mistakes regardless of intoxication, and some people struggle to perform the test for medical or physical reasons. It can also be administered or interpreted incorrectly. 

Here is how the walk and turn test works and what law enforcement officers look for. 

Walk and Turn Test Instructions

Law enforcement officers are trained to administer the walk and turn test using a specific set of instructions. The officer must also demonstrate each step of the test. 

During the instruction stage, the officer explains the instructions with a demonstration of each step. While listening to the instructions, the suspect must stand in the heel-to-toe position with their arms at their sides. 

Next, the suspect is asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line. At the end, the suspect must turn on one foot and take another nine heel-to-toe steps. 

This test must be performed in safe conditions. It should be done on non-slippery, dry, hard, and level ground. The officer should verify that you qualify medically to take the test before beginning, as certain conditions make it impossible to conduct the test fairly. 

Walk and Turn Sobriety Test Clues: What Law Enforcement Looks For

During the test, officers look for nine clues or signs of impairment: 

  • The suspect cannot keep their balance while receiving instructions
  • They started the test before being told to begin
  • The heel-to-toe steps are not within a half-inch of touching
  • They stepped off the line
  • They stop for too long 
  • They used their arms for balance
  • The turn was performed improperly
  • They took the incorrect number of heel-to-toe steps
  • The suspect cannot complete the test

The officer should watch for these signs while the suspect performs the test. To score the test, the officer is trained to give just one point for each item they observe, even if they observe it more than once. The maximum score is nine points. 

Officers are supposed to classify an OVI or DUI suspect as having a BAC at or above 0.10 if they score two or more points. If the suspect can’t complete the test, it’s automatically scored as nine points. 

Challenging the Results of a Walk and Turn Test

Even when it’s performed and scored properly, the walk and turn test is just 68% accurate at determining when a driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 or higher. That means about one out of three people will fail even though they were not driving under the influence. The test is often administered below NHTSA standards. 

There are many potential weaknesses that may be attacked by a defense attorney: 

  • The accuracy is not great in the best-case scenario. 
  • The surface was unsuitable for the test. 
  • The lighting was inadequate.
  • The defendant had physical or mental impairments that made them unsuitable to take the test. Advanced age, balance/inner-ear problems, and obesity are just three conditions that can affect someone’s ability to perform the test. 
  • The defendant had improper footwear. Shoes with poor traction and heels over two inches can make it hard to execute the steps, turn, and balance. 
  • There were distractions that affected performance. The test should be performed away from oncoming traffic and roadside distractions. The officer should also remain motionless and quiet. If the officer walks around or demonstrates distracting behavior, it can compromise the results of the test. 

The assessment of the indicators or clues can be very subjective, as it depends on the officer’s judgment. The test can also be affected by many external factors.

If you failed a walk and turn test you believe was administered unfairly, it’s time to consult an experienced attorney to discuss your DUI defense options. 

We are here to help you. Call our law office to schedule an appointment with a Dayton DUI defense attorney to discuss your case and how we can help.

Contact the Dayton DUI Attorneys at Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers For Help Today

For more information, contact the DUI attorneys at Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers give us a call today at (937) 531-0435 or visit us at our Dayton law office.

Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers – Dayton
130 West Second Street #17-129
Dayton, OH 45402
United States