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Field Sobriety Tests – The Walk and Turn Test

by | Feb 8, 2016 | Firm News |

The Nine Step Walk and Turn evaluation, when conducted properly on a well-qualified individual on a dry, level surface, has a 68% reliability rate. Again, this leaves a 32% chance for false positives. The Walk and Turn Test is divided into two parts: the instructional phase and the walking phase.

During the instructional phase the officer has the test subject stand with the heel of his right foot touching the toe of his left foot with his hands placed at his sides. The subject is to hold this pose while the officer gives the instructions for the Walk and Turn test. If the subject breaks this pose, or begins the test before the officer instructs him to begin, the subject is given a clue for either violation.

The officer places the subject in the instructional phase by giving the following instructions:

  • I want you to stand with your right foot in front of your left, with your right heel touching your left toe
  • Hold that position and keep your hands at your sides
  • Do not begin the test until I instruct you to do so
  • Do you understand?

At this time, the officer will begin to give the instructions for the rest of the test. Remember, the subject must stand heel to toe, arms at his side, and not start the test until he’s instructed to do so or he will be giving “clues” of impairment to the officer.

The officer will then give the following instructions:

  • I want you to take a series of nine heel to toe steps
  • As you walk, I want you to count each step out loud
  • When you take your ninth step I want you to pivot on whichever foot your ninth step is on, take a series of small steps with the other foot to turn around, and then take nine steps back counting each step out loud.
  • At the same time as these instructions, the officer should be demonstrating these instructions, including the turn, as well
  • As you walk, I want you to look down at your feet, count each step out loud, keep your hands at your sides, and don’t stop the test once you have started
  • Do you understand?

During the instruction phase of the test, the officer is looking for two clues of impairment:

  • The subject breaks heel to toe position.
  • The subject starts the test too soon (before the officer instructs him to do so)

During the walking phase of the test, the officer is looking for six clues of impairment:

  • The subject stops while walking.
  • The subject misses heel to toe while walking (by at least one half inch)
  • The subject raises his arms six inches or more while walking
  • The subject steps off the line
  • The subject turns improperly
  • The subject takes the wrong number of steps

The 6 clues during the walking phase can be remembered by using the pneumonic SHORTS (Stops walking, misses Heel to toe, steps Off line, subject Raises arms, improper Turn, wrong number of Steps).

Again, one point is given for each clue observed regardless of how many times the clue is observed. Just like the One Leg Stand, two or more clues on the Walk and Turn Test is considered failing.

In summary, the National Highway Safety Transportation Authority (NHTSA) would have us believe that cumulatively, these 3 tests, if done correctly, have an 83% accuracy rate of indicating whether a subject has a BAC of .10% or more.

Knowledgeable DUI attorneys know that 98% of officers conduct these tests incorrectly, or on an unqualified or unapproved individual, or score them incorrectly. In some situations, officers make all 3 of these mistakes. When done incorrectly, these field sobriety tests have ZERO percent reliability