How can I challenge a failed walk and turn field sobriety test?
The walk and turn test is a field sobriety test commonly used by police officers across the nation. This classic sobriety test was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in order to identify intoxicated drivers. Though the test has been around for some time, it has been criticized for the ease with which it can be misinterpreted and easily influenced by the suspect’s physical condition, footwear, and other outside factors. Our Atlanta DUI defense attorneys explain the basics of the walk and turn field sobriety test and how you may be able to challenge it below.
Purpose of the Walk and Turn Test
The walk and turn test is considered a divided attention test, requiring you to listen to instructions while engaging in the physical task of walking and turning. Intoxicated drivers in theory will struggle to make sense of the instructions and could have trouble coordinating their movements.
Walk and Turn Instructions
Typically, the walk and turn test will be the second field sobriety test administered. Before the test begins, the officer should tell the suspect to imagine a straight line. You should then be informed that you will need to place your right foot on the line ahead of your left heel, with your heel touching your toe. When instructed, you should take several heel to toe steps on the line then turn and take the same number of steps back, keeping your arms on the side. The officer should ask you whether you understand the instructions and not begin until you indicate that you do.
Interpreting the Results
The officer will closely watch to see whether you follow the instructions and can maintain your balance. The test is not pass/fail, though the results are commonly described this way. Rather, the officer will look for clues of intoxication using the test. Officers need to carefully interpret the test, as some movement by the suspect is normal, such as shifting one’s weight during the instructions or raising arms slightly during the walk.
Challenging the Walk and Turn Test
There are several grounds to challenge the walk and turn test. You may be able to challenge the instructions on the grounds they were inadequate. You could further attack the interpretation of the test. Many suspects with physical limitations or balance issues will struggle to complete the walk and turn test even if completely sober. Further, a suspect’s footwear, particularly women’s heels, may cause false flags of intoxication. Your attorney will review the results of the walk and turn test to provide you with an individualized assessment as to your potential for challenging the DUI.