Like other field sobriety exercises, this is a divided-attention test to detect both mental and physical impairment. The officer administers the test in two parts – first by directing the driver to stand in a very unnatural position of heel-to-toe, arms down, while listening to the test instructions. Next, the officer then instructs the driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a real or imaginary line, turn, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back toward the officer. While the driver performs the test, the officer watches for any signs that the driver is impaired.
There are eight signs that the officer looks for are: inability to balance during instructions, starting the test too soon, stopping while walking, inability to touch heel to toe, stepping off of the line, using his or her arms to balance, loss of balance during the turn or inability to turn correctly, and taking the wrong number of steps.
If the officer notices two or more of these signs, he or she likely will conclude that the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10 percent or greater, and the driver will be arrested for drunk driving. However, so-called indicators of impairment noted in the walk and turn test can be caused by physical conditions other than alcohol, such as injury or illness. And, consider that that most people do not normally walk heel-to-toe, or even stand that way.
Many signs of impairment noted in the walk and turn test can be caused by factors other than alcohol. The test is especially unsuited for people with back or leg injuries, individuals older than 65, and those with inner-ear disorders. The test may be conducted on uneven ground. Or, an individual may be wearing shoes with heels higher than two inches which can also affect an individual’s performance on the walk and turn test.
Sometimes police officers don’t administer the walk and turn test correctly, or don’t interpret the results the way they should. The best way to challenge a DUI/DWI charge that stems from a walk and turn test is to consult with an attorney with a proven track record of challenging drunk driving cases.