Walk-and-Turn (Field Sobriety Test for DUI evaluation)
There are three field sobriety tests that have been tested and accepted by the Federal Government as useful indicators of impairment in DUI cases. They are the walk and turn test, the one leg stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test has been previously discussed and the test has been reduced to signify that there may be alcohol in the person’s system. According to case law however there are up to 37 other reasons why a person may suffer from nystagmus. Even if nystagmus is present in an individual the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the person consumed alcohol at some point. In the old days it was not necessarily that way but happily the courts have come to the conclusion that the test is about as useless for the identification of alcohol content as one would expect.
The remaining tests are the walk and turn test and the one leg stand. Now some old time police officers may try some other shenanigans like asking you to repeat the alphabets forwards or backwards or to touch your fingers together or to tilt your head back and dance around but these are not accepted field sobriety tests and counsel should object to their use in the courtroom. It is only rare and few between where you see these types of tests being presented today.
The walk and turn test is a multi-direction type of test where the police officer is barking all kinds of directions at you and your mission is to try to remember and absorb what he is telling you at 1 o’clock in the morning on the side of the street and then to be able to effectuate those commands in some semblance of chronological order. I would certainly admit that I would be challenged to follow all those directions myself even when sober as a church mouse and I’m sure the judges are the same way however when you find yourself in court everybody will assume you should be able to do these tests perfectly in a sober state. That is a legal fallacy.
You will be requested to stand with your right foot in front of your left and to listen to the officers instructions in that stance until he tells you to proceed so you have to stand there with your hands at your sides and not leaning or falling over. You will then be requested to take nine heel to toe steps with your hands at your sides, looking at your feet and counting from 1 to 9 while touching heel to toe and then when you reach the ninth step, you will be asked to take three small steps and pivot around your planted left foot and then to come back executing another nine steps heel to toe with your hands at your sides counting out loud. It’s actually a lot to remember the first time you hear it while in the dark on the side of the street with a man and his gun barking orders at you. However when you perform inadequately on this test the cop will use that as probable cause to arrest you and then a judge will utilize that information in an attempt to determine your sobriety. Again it is a largely crap but it’s all they have for now so you are required to play along.
The walk in turn test has eight different clues that law enforcement and the courts look at to evaluate your impairment. For example: can you stand in the ready stance with your right foot in front of your left without falling over or swaying back and forth. If you fail that part of the test that would be one clue of impairment. Another clue would be the ability to walk nine steps heel to toe without falling off the line or swaying back and forth were lifting your arms. All nine steps would be considered one clue so if you stepped off line more than one time it would still only be one clue. Then you will be graded on your ability to plant your left foot and take three or four small steps around in a circle when you’re planted foot and prepare to walk back. If you are able to do that successfully that would be another clue in your favor. And then the last clue would be the nine steps on the walk back to where you began.
Bruce Robinson of Robinson and Associates is trained not only to perform the field sobriety test but he is also a certified instructor of the field sobriety tests and can teach other police officers how to perform the tests. It is for this reason that Robinson and Associates is a good law firm to evaluate your results on field sobriety tests if they were used as a basis for your arrest.