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Problems linger with walk-and-turn field sobriety tests

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving Defense

Many people living in California have felt fear when blue and red lights show up in their rearview mirrors, especially drivers who’ve had a drink or two. Besides the stress of dealing with the police, law enforcement may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. One of the most highly debated of these tests is the walk-and-turn test.

What’s a walk-and-turn test?

Whether you’ve performed it or seen it in the movies or on TV, you’re likely familiar with the walk-and-turn test. The basic way to describe this test is to walk in a straight line. However, it also requires you to walk heel-to-toe, taking nine steps forward, turning, and taking nine steps in the opposite direction.

Understandably, this test can be challenging even when sober. When you add in the pressure of a police officer or group of them watching your every step, it’s no wonder that passing this test isn’t always easy. During this time, officers look for a test subject to miscount steps, fail to walk straightforwardly or use their arms to balance themselves.

Why are walk-and-turn tests problematic?

Research from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration reported that walk-and-turn tests have a 66% accuracy. This means 34% of these tests can result in someone receiving DUI charges who aren’t even impaired. The other major problem with this and all other field sobriety tests involves the officer making mistakes administering or judging their tests.

Field sobriety tests are far from fail-proof. Document the details of your experience with law enforcement and any tests they performed as soon as possible. You may end up noting mistakes they made.