What Happens During a DUI Stop? (Part III, the Walk and Turn Test)

In parts one and two of this series on the South Carolina DUI investigation process we discussed the initial DUI traffic stop and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) standard field sobriety test. The next test likely administered by a police officer during his DUI investigation is the Walk and Turn Test.   In this installment we'll discuss what the Walk and Turn Test is, what is expected of a DUI suspect in performing the test, and how a South Carolina DUI Lawyer may be able to do to help you exclude the test results or significantly minimize their value as evidence in your DUI case.

The Walk and Turn Test is a “divided attention” test that is designed to determine a person’s balance, listening skills, and ability to follow instructions, all at the same time.  In this test the subject stands with feet heel-to-toe and arms at their sides while a series of instructions are given by the police officer.  Following the instructions, the DUI suspect must take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn in a prescribed manner, and then take another nine heel-to-toe steps back along the line.  All of this must be done while counting the steps aloud and keeping the arms at the sides.  The individual is informed not to stop walking until the test is completed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns that this test requires a designated straight line and should be conducted on a dry, hard, level, non-slippery surface. Research indicates that individuals over the age of 65, overweight, and those with back, leg or middle ear problems have enhanced difficulty performing the test.  Women wearing heels should be given the opportunity to remove them. 

There are eight “clues” that are observed by the investigating officer during this test. They are:

1.  whether the subject fails to keep their balance during the instructions,

2.  whether the subject starts walking before the officer finishes the instructions,

3.  after the test begins, whether the subject stops walking,

4.  does not stay heel-to-toe,

5.  steps off of the line,

6.  raises arms while walking,

7.  takes the wrong number of steps, and

8.  turns improperly.

A suspect who exhibits two or more clues is considered to have "failed" the test.

The Walk-and-Turn Test, like the other field sobriety tests used in DUI arrests, is only “reliable” when (1) conditions are ideal and (2) the correct instructions are given. The test quickly loses accuracy if either are compromised.  A DUI attorney may be able to find the errors in how the tests are administered and fight to keep the test results out of Court.  

In the next installment we will discuss the third and final Standard Field Sobriety Test, the One-Leg Stand Test.

Charleston, SC DUI Defense Attorneys

Our DUI lawyers help people charged with DUI and DUAC in the Charleston, SC area.  Our attorneys will review all the possible evidence in your case and work hard to beat your DUI. Please give us a call today to discuss your charge.  Our consultations are confidential and free of charge.

We help those charge with DUI in the Charleston, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Hanahan, Goose Creek, West Ashley, James Island, Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, Summerville, and Moncks Corner, SC areas.

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