Challenging the walk-the-line test

Just about everyone – even people who have never been pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving – knows what the “walk the line” field sobriety test is. On its face, the test is straightforward: walk on a line. Police officers and DUI lawyers know, however, that it’s not that simple. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established a protocol for officers to follow in administering the “walk the line” test. If the arresting officer in your case claims you “failed” this test, an experienced King County DUI attorney can effectively challenge this claim on cross-examination. Here is a brief excerpt of how a typical cross-examination might proceed:

Q: First, you had [the defendant] put her left foot on the line?
A: Yes.

Q: Then you asked her to put her right foot on the line?
A: Yes.

Q: You instructed her to put her arms at her side?
A: Yes.

Q: You told her to maintain that position until you instructed her to begin walking?
A: Yes.

Q: She has to stay in that position?
A: Yes.

Q: How long did you keep her standing in this position?
A: Not more than 5 to 10 seconds.

Here, the officer is likely to understate how long he kept the defendant in this awkward position. This is key because the time the defendant spent in this position is the same amount of time the officer spent giving her the instructions for the test. A short time period translates to short, quick instructions. Were the instructions complete? Did the defendant understand? How does the officer know that?  The cross-examination will continue with these points and other attacks on the test protocol.

 

If you were asked to take the “walk the line” test, consider meeting with a King County DUI attorney in advance of your trial. An effective cross-examination on this issue can significantly impact the outcome of your case.

 

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