Police use many types of tests to assess driver impairment. The walk-and-turn test, one of the standardized field sobriety tests researched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, requires the driver to walk a straight line. It is not, however, quite that simple. In my work as a Pierce County DUI attorney, I explain the walk-and-turn test to my clients as follows:
An officer must follow a detailed and specific protocol when asking a driver to perform the walk-and-turn test. If the officer fails to follow the required instructions, you may be able to challenge the test results presented by the prosecutor in your case.
First, the officer must ask the driver to stand with his feet placed heel-to-toe and his arms down by his sides. The officer should show the driver how to stand, and instruct the driver to remain standing still until instructed otherwise. Next, the officer must ask the driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps while following a straight line along the road surface. The driver should verbally count the number of each step.
After taking nine steps, the driver must turn around by placing his front foot on the line and pivoting around using the other foot. The officer should demonstrate the proper turn so that the driver can see what to do. After completing the turn, the driver must walk another nine steps back toward the place where he started.
Challenging results from the walk-and-turn test
At each point in the walk-and-turn test, the officer must give the driver an opportunity to show understanding of the instructions. If the officer did not give you this opportunity, or if you said that you did not understand the instructions, tell your Pierce County DUI attorney. In addition, the officer should have explained that you need to continue walking until you complete the test. If you stopped for any reason, but the officer did not ask you to continue, the officer may have failed to properly execute the test.
Many factors other than alcohol, including a physical impairment, illness, or even stress, may limit a driver’s ability to walk in a straight line or otherwise complete the walk-and-turn test. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to explain to your Pierce County DUI attorney how your condition may have affected your test results. Honesty might just help you win your case. Procedural issues, such as the officer’s failure to follow test protocol also may help. If you are not currently represented by a Pierce County DUI attorney, please contact me. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation.