The “walk and turn” test is a common tool used by police officers to try to prove a person is intoxicated. This is a type of divided attention test–the person taking it has their attention divided between muscle control, memory and balance. It also has two parts, known as the instructional state stage and the walking stage.
During this test, the driver must first listen to a specific set of complex directions and then walk nine steps down a straight line, which may be real or imaginary. The officer giving the test then scores the driver based on eight “clues” that may be observed. The scoring on this test is similar to the golf scoring system (the more strokes you have in a game of golf, the worse your score ends up being). In the walk and turn test, the more clues you receive, the worse your score is.
The first clue is whether the driver can keep their balance in the start position during the instruction part of the test. If the driver can’t keep their balance in the starting positing, they will be scored with one clue. If they start walking too soon, before they are told to start the test, they will receive a second clue for starting early. This means that simply being anxious and starting the test early will dent a driver’s score.
A third clue can be awarded for a driver who stops while walking on the line, and the fourth clue comes from the driver failing to touch each step heel-to-toe. Should the driver step off of the line–even if it’s imaginary–they will receive their fifth negative clue. If the driver puts their arms out for balance, like a tightrope walker does in a circus, they will receive their sixth clue.
At the end of the nine steps, the driver must make a complicated turn. Their front foot has to be flat on the line, and they need to turn by making several small steps with their other foot. This is not a normal way for a person to turn around. It’s complex and must be done exactly how the officer describes it; otherwise, the driver will receive their seventh clue. The eighth clue is earned by a driver who fails to make exactly nine steps–any more or less results in the negative mark.
Any driver who doesn’t pay very close attention to the complex directions from the officer will likely fail. Confusion, nervousness, the ground surface, footwear, weather, wind, a person’s physical ability and age, and poor directions can all come into play in performances on the walk and turn test. In particular, many people have trouble staying in the start position and turning correctly after taking their ninth step.
If you were charged with DUI after taking a walk and turn test, speak to lawyer in Denver, CO about what happened. Your attorney will help protect your rights and your freedom as your case makes its way through the legal system.
Thanks to Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into criminal law and DUI stops.