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Field Sobriety Test

Walk and Turn, Walk the Line

When investigating a DUI, the police officer will ask the driver too perform a series of exercises often called “Field Sobriety Tests” (FST’s) or “Field Sobriety Exercises” (FSE’s). One of the exercises is the “Walk and Turn” test where the DUI police officer will ask the driver suspected of driving under the influence to walk down a line and back again. The driver is supposed to touch heel-to-toe on each step.
These field sobriety tests or field sobriety exercises are supposed to be standardized exercises. That means that every police officer, when conducting these field sobriety exercises, must be giving the same instructions and must be grading them the same way no matter what law enforcement agency or police department the deputy or officer works for. Because of this, the U.S. Department of Transportation has assigned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to design the field sobriety exercises so that these tests are standard and every suspected DUI driver gets the same instructions and are graded in the same manner.

The instructions for the Walk and Turn exercises are:

Place your left foot on the line (demonstrate). Place your right foot on the line ahead of the left foot, with heel of right foot against toe of left foot (demonstrate). Place your arms down at your sides (demonstrate). Maintain this position until I have completed the instructions. DO NOT START to walk until told to do so. Do you understand the instructions so far? (Make sure DUI suspect indicates understanding). When I tell you to start, take 9 heel-t-toe steps, turn, and take 9 heel-to-toe steps back (demonstrate 3 heel-to-toe steps). When you turn, keep the left front foot on the line, and turn by taking a series of small steps with the other foot, like this (demonstrate). While you are walking, keep your arms at your sides, watch your feet at all times, and count steps out loud. Once you start walking, don’t stop until you have completed the test. Do you understand the instructions? (make sure DUI suspect understands). Begin, and count your first step from the heel-to-toe position as “one”.
That is a lot of instructions a nervous driver suspected of DUI must perform. Especially when the driver is under the threat of arrest, in a dark area, there may only be an imaginary line to walk down, traffic is speeding by, and the driver has never heard these instructions before. Worse yet:


For example, start the test before the DUI or Drug Recognition Officer tells you and the DUI driver has a cue. Move your foot and step off the line while listening to the instruction from the deputy in that ridiculous heel-to-toe position and you have another mistake. You just failed the test!
You need an experienced DUI attorney who knows how these field sobriety exercises are supposed to be given, how these field sobriety tests are supposed to be graded, and has the NHTSA manual in hand ready to use it in court for you. You need a DUI lawyer that can attack these FST’s in court and explain to a jury that it’s not how a suspected drunk driver performs the FST’s, but that his normal faculties matter. These these field sobriety exercises having nothing to do with a driver’s normal abilities to drive a car, walk, or maintain balance.
Please call and set a free consultation so that I can review your DUI criminal case in detail. A DUI can have serious repercussions on your future, insurance, and ability to drive.


Are old people required to take the field sobriety test?
No, older people are not required to take the field sobriety test, as recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to a case, this test is an unreliable indicator whether one had been intoxicated when involved in a car accident.
How long does a field sobriety test take?
A field sobriety test usually takes a few minutes. Three tests constitute the standardized field sobriety tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand test.
Does a field sobriety test hold up in court?
Yes, a field sobriety test holds up in court. To prove legal intoxication in drivers, trained officers have administered these tests, especially if they suspect drunken driving. This test assesses balance, coordination, and the driver’s ability to divide his attention between two or more tasks.
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