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Walk and Turn Test DUI Cases

When properly administered, this test is composed of two stages, the instruction stage and the walking stage. As with the HGN, there is a very specific protocol that officer should have followed in administering both stages of this field sobriety test.

During the instruction stage, you should have been instructed as follows:

Verbal Instructions:
  • Place your left foot on the line (demonstrate).
  • Place your right foot in front of left, with heel of right foot against toe of the left foot (demonstrate).
  • Keep your arms down at your sides (demonstrate).
  • Keep this position and don't start until told.
  • DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

Once you indicated that you understood, the officer should have instructed you to walk nine heel-to-toe steps forward, and then turn keeping your lead foot on the line and taking several small steps with your other foot, then walking nine heel-to-toe steps back. Both the steps and the turn should have been demonstrated by the officer. The officer should then have instructed:

While Walking:
  • Keep watching your feet,
  • Keep your arms down at your sides,
  • Count your steps out loud,
  • Don't stop while walking until you complete the test.
  • DO YOU UNDERSTAND?
Walk and Turn Test Clues:

According to NHTSA, there are eight visual clues that the officer looks for, and if he/she observes at least two of the eight, you will be considered to have failed the test.

  • Can't balance during instructions
  • Starts too soon
  • Stops while walking
  • Doesn't touch heel to toe
  • Steps off the line
  • Uses arms for balance
  • Improper turn (or loses balance on turn)
  • Wrong number of steps

(Note: If you can't do the test, the officer will record the results as if all 8 clues were observed).

The most common mistakes most officers make with this test are to give incorrect instructions, and/or to ask the driver to count an incorrect number of steps. The test conditions are usually also not appropriate. (The NHTSA manual addresses the need for appropriate conditions). A failure to give the instructions exactly as stated above, and/or a failure to use the standardized scoring method, further reduces the reliability of this "intoxication" evidence.

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