The walk and turn test is one of a series of field sobriety tests that police use in order to determine whether you are intoxicated. The test is standardized across the country although there is criticism of the criteria used. It is important to understand several points about the walk and turn test.
What the Test Involves
The walk and turn test involves making a series of precise movements along a straight line. You are asked to put your heel in front of your toe with your arms at your sides. The officer then reads you the instructions for the test while you hold this position. You will then have to take nine steps forward by touching your heel to your toe each time. You must then turn around by shuffling on one foot. You then walk another nine steps back to the starting position. Your head and arms must be kept down for the entire test. You must also make sure to remain on the line defined by the officer.
What Officers Are Looking For
Police officers are looking for several things during the test. They are watching whether you are obeying the instructions correctly. They look for balance issues or deviation from the line while walking. They are looking to see whether you stop at any point. Officers are check whether you take the right number of steps. They also look for smaller things such as raising your arms for balance or lifting your head during the test. If officers observe two or more of these problems, then they are likely to determine that you are impaired and cannot drive safely.
Problems with the Test
There are a number of criticisms of the walk and turn test when used for determining sobriety. The first is that it is very subjective. The officer could decide that you are intoxicated just because you raised your arms a little too far and lost your balance. Another criticism is that the test conditions are not always consistent. Some tests are given using an imaginary line that you might not visualize in the same way as the police officer. There are criticisms that the test is unfair because many average people will lose balance walking in this manner. A final criticism is that the test begins even before you get instructions. You are forced to stand in an awkward position while the police officer reads you the instructions.
Walk and Turn Tests Are Often Voluntary
It is important to remember that walk and turn tests are often voluntary. This means that you can refuse to take the test without having to give any clear reason to the police officer involved. Refusing the test does not necessarily harm your case in any way. The fact that the test is so subjective and can be misinterpreted means that refusing to take a walk and turn test is usually the best option.
What Happens If You Fail
Several things can happen if an officer decides you failed a walk and turn test. You could be arrested immediately if the officer believes you are intoxicated. The results of the test could provide the police with probable cause to search or seize your vehicle. The results of the test as seen by the officer could be used as evidence against you in court. It is best to call a lawyer if you suspect there is a problem with the walk and turn test.