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Do you know what’s really going on in field sobriety tests? – II

If you are pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, it’s high likely that you will be asked to step outside of your vehicle to perform the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, which is actually comprised of three separate tests designed to measure intoxication via observation of physical responses.

In our last criminal defense post, we examined the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and in today’s post, we’ll examine the walk-and-turn test. 

What exactly is the walk-and-turn test?

This is likely the test with which people are most familiar. It involves having a suspect walk along a straight line, taking nine heel-to-toe steps in one direction before turning around on one foot and heading back in the exact same manner.

What exactly is the law enforcement official looking for in the walk-and-turn test?  

The law enforcement official will look for eight impairment indictors, including inability to maintain balance while listening to instructions, starting before the officer finishes the instructions, stopping to regain balance while walking, failing to touch heel-to-toe, failing to stay in a straight line, executing an improper turn, using arms to balance, and taking too many or too few steps.

What’s the point of the walk-and-turn test?

The walk-and-turn test is known as a “divided attention test,” in that it requires people to perform simple physical movements while listening to simple instructions. For sober people, this is typically a very easy exercise, while it can be considerably more difficult for impaired people.   

How accurate is the walk-and-turn test?

Previous research has found that the walk-and-turn test can properly classify 79 percent of all DUI suspects who show two or more of the aforementioned impairment indictors.

We will conclude this examination of the SFST next week. As always, remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you’ve been arrested for drunk driving as they can work to uncover any procedural issues.

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