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Walk and Turn Test

California police officers including members of the California the Highway Patrol (CHP), or sheriff's deputies who suspect a driver of driving under the influence (DUI), or driving while intoxicated (DWI) conduct a Field Sobriety Test (FST) to gather evidence to support the DUI charge. The Walk-and-Turn test is one of three standardized field sobriety tests recognized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

This agility exercise shouldn't even be called a test, because it is extremely difficult to pass. The officer’s observations during the test are used to support prosecution in a DUI case. However, the results of the walk and turn test can be challenged. An experienced criminal defense lawyer who focuses on DUI defense can challenge the results of the field sobriety tests.

The walk and turn test, like other field sobriety tests, is designed to divide the driver's attention in order to detect both mental and physical impairment. Prosecutors will use the results in an attempt to prove that the manner in which the driver performed the tests is proof of mental or physical impairment.

The test is administered in two parts. First the officer directs the driver to stand heel-to-toe, arms down, while listening to the test instructions. The officer then prompts 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. The officer watches as the test is performed for any signs that the driver is impaired.

The officer is watching for eight indications that the driver is impaired: An 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.

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If the police officer spots two or more of these signs, he or she will assume that the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10 percent or greater, and the driver will be arrested for a DUI. However, many of the "clues" watched for in the walk and turn test can be attributed to physical conditions other than alcohol, such as illness or injury. Remember that alcohol intoxication causes both mental and physical impairment, and mental impairment always occurs first. If only physical impairment is present, a charge of driving while impaired can be successfully challenged.

The experienced San Francisco Bay Area DUI attorneys at the Law Office of Robert Tayac know that many signs of impairment noted in the walk and turn test can be caused by factors other than alcohol. Certain drivers shouldn't even take the walk and turn test. The test is unsuitable for individuals with back or leg injuries, drivers older than 65, and those with inner-ear disorders. A driver who takes the test on uneven ground, or while wearing shoes with heels higher than two inches also may not perform well on the walk and turn test.

Some police officers don't even administer the walk and turn test correctly, or do not interpret the results the way they should. The bottom line is the results of the walk and turn test and other field sobriety tests can be challenged. The best way to fight a DUI charge that stems from a walk and turn test is to consult with a California DUI defense lawyer with a proven track record of defending drunk driving cases.

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