DUI Investigation Roadside Testing: The Walk and Turn Test
This is an overview of the NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION (NHTSA) rules for STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TESTING (SFST) for the WNT test. This testing is used by law enforcement in the most important phase of a roadside DUI investigation the officer's observations of the driver.
Walk and Turn Test (WNT):Walking in a perfectly straight line while touching heel to toe on each and every step, proceeding for exactly nine steps then pivoting in a frankly unnatural manner and doing it again is a daunting challenge for many folks. Even when attempted in the most ideal of circumstances, on perfectly level ground, wearing sturdy shoes, and without traffic whizzing by you as you take this test.
Sadly, this is a feat of agility that you can expect to have the police score if you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has designated the walk and turn test as an approved field sobriety tests, and law enforcement agencies all across the country use this so called "divided attention test" to determine if there is probable cause for a driving under the influence arrest.
WNT Test Procedure:The walk and turn is considered one of the three standardized test, which means that the policeman who administers it is required to adhere to an follow the established guidelines to ensure an accurate result. The test is divided into two phaes: the Instruction phase and the Performance phase.
As the test begins in the instruction stage, the police officer will direct you to stand with your legs together and to keep your arms straight down by your sides while he explains and demonstrates (correctly) how the test should be performed. When the instructions have been delivered to you, the officer will ask if you understood the instructions.
To perform the test, you will be directed take nine (and only nine) heel-to-toe steps forward on a line that may be a real painted line on a street or parking lot or it may be an imaginary line, then you must pivot as directed, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. Always, while performing the WNT test, you must keep your arms straight down by your sides and count your steps out loud.
While you are walking, the officer will look for a number of variables described as and considered "clues" that are deemed to indicate a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .10% or higher. These variables are supposed to include the following,
-difficulty balancing while listening to instructions,
-beginning the test before the officer says to start,
-stopping while walking,
-failing to touch heel to toe,
-stepping off of the line,
-using arms for balance (defined strictly)
-taking the wrong number of steps.
Problems with WNT in the Field:NHTSA has publized that the walk and turn test has only roughly a 66% accuracy rate*and that is when the testing is administered strictly according to NHTSA guidelines. If you are charged with DUI based on the results of taking the field sobriety tests like the WNT your lawyer will need to obtain any video of the arrest and review the testing procedure closely. Many times out in the field the tests are conducted incorrectly.
It may well be possible to significantly challenge the accuracy of the results and the officer's opinion of the results in court. We win a lot of cases based upon incorrectly conducted SFST testing. The Walk and Turn is often administered without proper procedure being followed which leads to compromised results that cannot be relied upon.