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The Walk and Turn Field Sobriety Test

by Joseph C. Maya on Aug. 11, 2017

Criminal DUI-DWI Criminal 

Summary: A blog post about one of the field sobriety tests police officers may employ during a DUI pullover.

For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney, please call the offices of Maya Murphy, P.C. today at (203) 221-3100 or Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Under Connecticut law, any person who operates a motor vehicle within the State shall be deemed to have given his or her consent to a chemical analysis of the operator’s blood, breath or urine and, if such person is a minor, such person’s parent, parents, or guardians are also deemed to have provided their consent.  However, prior to the breath or chemical test, the investigating/arresting officer may perform field sobriety tests upon the driver to determine whether it is probable that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  One such test is the Walk and Turn test (WAT).

The WAT has two (2) distinct elements, with the first requiring the subject to balance heel-to-toe while the officer gives the instructions and demonstrates the test. The second element of the test requires the subject to take nine (9) heel-to-toe steps on a straight line, pivot around, and take nine (9) heel-to-toe steps back.

In order to properly be evaluated, the officer must have the driver perform the test under the required physical and topographic conditions.  The test must occur on a level, hard, dry, non-slippery surface, and in conditions under which the driver is in no danger should he or she fall.  The student training manual for investigating officers states that the test criteria are not necessarily valid for people age sixty-five (65) or older, or people with leg injuries or inner ear disorders.

Drivers with heels more than two (2) inches high must be given the chance to remove their shoes prior to performing the test.  The WAT further requires a line that the suspect can visually see and follow.  If a natural line is not present, the officer must draw one in the dirt or on a sidewalk with chalk.  Walking parallel to a curb is not acceptable to perform the test.

Further, the driver must be able to see to perform the test.  His or her eyes must be open and adequate light must be available.  The usual standard is that if the officer can see the suspect clearly, the lighting is adequate, otherwise the officer must use a flashlight to illuminate the line. The driver must be instructed to watch his or her feet, as this makes the test more difficult for an intoxicated person.  The officer must observe the suspect performing the test from three (3) to four (4) feet away, and remain motionless while the test is in progress. Standing too close or moving while the test is ongoing may alter the results of the test.

The WAT test is scored with eight (8) specific scoring clues that the investigating officer must track.  The officer must monitor the suspected driver to review if the driver: loses balance during the instructions (his or her feet break from the heel-to-toe stance); starts walking before the instructions are completed and he or she is instructed to start; stops while walking to steady himself or herself; leaves more than one-half inch between his or her feet during any heel-to-toe step; steps off the line (if this occurs three (3)  times the test is terminated and the officer must score as if all eight (8) clues were shown); raises one (1) or both arms more than six (6) inches from his or her side to maintain balance; turns improperly either by removing the front foot from the line while turning, removes both feet from the line, or clearly does not follow the directions as demonstrated; or takes the wrong number of steps in either direction.  If the driver cannot perform the test, the officer will score the driver as if all eight (8) of the clues were present.

If the suspect clearly exhibits two (2) or more of the eight (8) clues as identified in the WAT, or cannot complete the test, the officer must classify the operator’s BAC as above .10%.  Officers are instructed to note in their report how many times each clue appears, but count it only once for scoring purposes.

If you have been arrested and charged with driving under the influence, contact the experienced criminal law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.  We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients throughout Connecticut and all of Fairfield County, from Greenwich and Stamford to Westport and Bridgeport.


Source: cga.ct.gov

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