How is the 9 Step Walk & Turn done?
The training manual states that to be valid:
“The Walk-and-Turn test is administered and interpreted in a standardized manner, i.e., the same way every time.”
There are a lot of directions that you need to remember and follow. The officer’s instructions should be similar to this:
The instructional stance phase
Place your left foot on the line. Now, place your right foot on the line, in front of your left foot with the heel of your right foot just touching the toe of your left. [The officer should demonstrate the position.]
Keep your arms down by your side and don’t move out of this position until I tell you to. Don’t start to walk until I tell you to.
Do you understand these instructions?
The walking test phase
When I tell you to start, you will take 9 heel-to-toe steps, turn, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. When you turn, keep your front foot planted on the line, and turn around by taking a series of small turning steps like this. [The officer should demonstrate.]
Keep your arms by your sides at all times, and keep your eyes on your feet. Count each step out loud. Do not stop the test once you start walking until the test is completed. Do you have any questions?
The officer told me that I passed but later told the magistrate that I failed the test. How can he lie like that?
When officers are questioned about this under oath, they will sometimes admit that they did tell my client that they passed. But, they typically say that they are trained to tell subjects that they passed to keep the subject compliant for “officer safety.” Courts allow officers quite a bit of legal and moral latitude all in the name of officer safety.
What if the officer did not follow the directions above?
The training manual is clear: if the tests are done in any other way than the manual says, the results are invalid.
How was my walking scored?
Out of all the things that you are told to do, only 8 figure into your score. These are usually referred to as cues. The 8 cues include whether:
- you were able to stay in the instructional stance during all the instructions (Note that this stance is so difficult for so many people that you are not penalized for using your arms or swaying during this time.)
- you start before the officer tells you to,
- you miss heel to toe on any step although multiple misses only count as one point against you
- you step off the line [Officers vary on whether you have to step all the way off the line, or most of the way off the line. Also, most Walk and Turn tests use an “imaginary line.” This sets up a question to the officer: “How wide a line did you imagine that my client imagined and then actually stepped off of?”]
- you stop while walking [This most often occurs once a driver turns around and thinks about the directions to return.]
- you raise your arms more than 6 inches from your side for balance
- you pivot, spin, do a military about face, or some other improper turn
- you take more or less than 9 steps up and 9 steps back
The law enforcement officer can also stop the test and fail you if:
- you step off the line 3 or more times
- you look like you are going to fall
- you cannot complete the test
“I failed the Walk and Turn Test but I wasn’t drunk.”
I failed and didn’t drink any alcohol either. I take the same field sobriety test training that officers do. During the training, I stepped off the line and missed heel to toe on the same step. That’s a -2 and I failed.
The field sobriety tests can be very inaccurate. They are thought to show impairment, or a reduction of physical and mental abilities due to alcohol. The problem is, the officer has no idea how you would do with no drugs or alcohol in your system when you were under the same amount of pressure. Your results are just compared to some mystical average of how adults should perform. It should be noted that the “average person” on earth is dead, Chinese, and female. No one reading this is average!
The officer’s training manual will alert him that environmental and physical conditions can make sober people appear drunk:
- if the test is not done on a level surface that is dry, clear of debris, non-slippery and hard.
- the test should be done with an actual designated line
- back problems
- leg problems
- over 65 years old [Common sense would tell us that when you are 65 years and 1 day old (over 65) there is not a catastrophic drop off in physical abilities. Common sense is not always common. Physical dexterity typically drops throughout the forties, fifties and sixties. The majority of participants in all of the NHTSA studies were young and male. (Getting paid for drinking free alcohol!)
- inner ear problems
- wearing 2 inch heels or more
- your weight [In the One Leg Stand, NHTSA said that weight affects those who are 50 or more pounds overweight. Common sense would dictate that someone who is 49 pounds overweight would also be affected. In addition, carrying an extra 50 pounds would probably have a greater effect on someone 5 feet tall compared to someone 6 feet tall.]
- wind and weather
I was walking fine, standing fine but I messed up on the tests. How can you defend this?
Sometimes we refer to this as the “normal walk and turn test.” The argument is that when you were asked to do normal things, you behaved normally. You had no difficulty walking, no trouble standing, and no trouble speaking.
We often begin by asking:
- Officer you’ve been to the mall?
- You’ve been to the mall with your family?
- You’ve seen many people at the mall?
- You’ve seen many people at the mall over many years?
- You’ve seen thousands of people at the mall?
- You’ve seen thousands of people walking at the mall?
- You’ve seen people on crutches?
- You’ve seen people with limbs?
- You’ve seen people with casts?
- You’ve never seen anyone walking heel to toe in a straight line from store to store?
- If you did see them walk heel to toe, you would think something was wrong?
- That’s because the Walk and Turn is not a normal way to walk?
- At some point you had my client get out of his car?
- He got out of his car without problems?
- He did not lean on the car?
- He did not fall back onto the car?
- He did not stumble?
- At some point you told my client to walk back between your vehicles?
- My client never bumped into you?
- Never grabbed on to you for support?
- Never put his hand on the vehicle as he walked?
- He walked a straight line to the back of his car?
- Ended up between the vehicles?
- Followed your instructions on where to go?
- Made the turn at the rear without a problem?
- Didn’t bump into the car or use it for balance there?
The same type questions can be used when you were handcuffed and walked to the police car and when you were walked for the police car to the breath test or magistrate.