Walk-And-Turn Test in DUI prosecution in Los Angeles

April 13, 2015

Walk-And-Turn TestVoluntary Walk-and-Turn Test often used  by Police agencies in Los Angeles county  during the field sobriety drunk driving investigation to determine if a driver is impaired.  It is rarely a good idea to submit to this test because the results of the tests are extremely subjective and more often then not are used as circumstantial evidence of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol in DUI prosecutions.  The Walk-and-Turn Test is significant because the courts believe that many of the same skills used on this test are needed for driving, such as small muscle control, information processing, reaction, balance, coordination, and short-term memory (U.S. v. Stanton 501 F.3d 1093, 1100).  The Walk-And-Turn Test involves “walking hill-to-toe for nine steps, turning counterclockwise, and then walking back heel-to-toe”.  The officers who administer the test observe the performance on the test specifically paying attention to the following 8 clues:

  • Balancing during instruction phase
  • Starting the test too soon
  • Stopping while walking
  • Not touching hill to toe
  • Stepping off the line
  • Using arms to balance
  • Losing balance on the turn or turning incorrectly
  • Taking wrong number of steps.

NHTSA research concluded that if a person who performs Walk-and-Turn Test exhibits two of the eight clues, it is 68% likely that the person is above .10% blood alcohol level.  The officers are trained to record at least two clues, even when the deviations are insignificant.  Slight usage of arms to balance or a single miss of heel-to-toe is consider a valid clue of impairment.  Because the clues are numerous and even slight deviation from “perfect” performance is considered a clue, it is easy to fail this test.  However, scientific validity of the test were recently questioned by number of studies and officers can be impeached based on these recent research in court.  Even then, declining to submit to the non-evidentiary field-sobriety tests seems to be a far better option for persons suspected of drunk driving.  Lastly, most police officers are poorly trained in administering Walk-and-Turn Test and easily impeached with background and scientific reliability of the test. So don’t despair and call our office directly at (818) 921 7744 to discuss your drunk driving case and how I can defend you in the Superior Court and DMV no matter how well or poorly you did on the FSTs.

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