In past weeks, we have discussed the three types of field sobriety tests sanctioned by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that comprise the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST): the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the one-leg stand test, and the walk-and-turn test. This week, we will examine the Walk and Turn test in greater detail.
When a person is pulled over by a law enforcement officer in Oklahoma for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer may order the individual out of the car to perform field sobriety tests. The purpose of field sobriety testing is to allow an officer to observe a suspect’s balance, ability, attention level, and/or other factors that the officer may use to determine whether the suspect is driving under the influence.
In the Walk and Turn test, the person suspected of DUI is instructed to listen and follow simple physical movements. Standard NHTSA instructions for the Walk and Turn Test are as follows:
- Put your left foot on the line, then place your right foot on the line ahead of your left, with the heel of your right foot against the toe of your left foot.
- Do not start until I tell you to do so.
- Do you understand? (must receive affirmative response)
- When I tell you to begin, take 9 heel-to-toe steps on the line (demonstrate) and take 9 heel-to-toe steps back down the line.
- When you turn on the ninth step, keep your front foot on the line and turn taking several small steps with the other foot (demonstrate) and take 9 heel-to-toe steps back down the line.
- Ensure you look at your feet, count each step out loud, keep your arms at your side, ensure you touch heel-to-toe and do not stop until you have completed the test.
- Do you understand the instructions?
- You may begin.
- If the suspect does not understand some part of the instructions, only the part in which the suspect does not understand should be repeated.
The officer looks for eight indicators of impairment:
- Can’t keep balance during instructions
- Starts too soon
- Stops walking
- Misses heel-to-toe
- Steps off line
- Uses arms for balance
- Improper turn
- Incorrect number of steps
NHTSA research indicates that 79 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.08 or greater (Stuster and Burns, 1998).
If you have questions regarding field sobriety tests, or have been accused of DUI, contact our office to speak with a qualified DUI lawyer in Tulsa. Because we believe that everyone deserves equal access to qualified legal counsel, we offer free consultations. We will provide an honest and straightforward analysis of your Tulsa DUI case and devise a plan to fight your charges, if possible. Our firm has been representing Oklahomans for over 30 years. Contact us at 918-592-1144.