In my previous post, I discussed North Carolina DWI Stops and the North Carolina Field Sobriety Test: known as the One-Legged Stand Test (I also added the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test). I will now move on to a discussion regarding the Walk and Turn Test.
As explained before, there are three standard tests used by North Carolina Police Officers when conducting a stop for Driving While Intoxicated: The One-Legged Stand Test, The Walk and Turn Test, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. The Walk and Turn Test, like the One-Legged Stand Test, is both a balance test as well as a divided attention test. Obviously, someone who is impaired above the legal limit will have some difficulty with their balance. However, studies have shown that those that are intoxicated also have trouble dividing their attention between two tasks; specifically, maintaining their balance while concentrating on completing another task.
During the Administration of the Walk and Turn Test, the Driver is asked to stand, heel-to-toe on a either an actual line, or imaginary line, while the instructions are given. They are told not to begin the test until the instructions are finished. The Officer then explains that they want the Driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps along the line. Once they reach step nine, the front foot stays in place while the other foot takes small steps around in a half circle until the Driver is turned 180 degrees. They are then to take nine heel-to-toe steps back. During the test, the Driver is to keep their hands at their side, look at their feet, and count to nine. Normally, the Officer will demonstrate several steps as well as the turn as they give the instructions.
During the test, the Officer is looking for nine ‘clues.’ Clues are actions taken by the Driver which are suppose to indicate some impairment. For this test, only two clues are needed to qualify the Driver as having an impairment of .10 or more. The nine clues are as follows:
- Cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions.
- Starts before the instructions are finished.
- Stops while walking to steady self (does not include merely walking slowly).
- Does not touch heel-to-toe (only if the gap is more than 1/2 inch).
- Steps off the line.
- Use arms to balance (only if the Driver raises one or both hands more than 6 inches from their body).
- Loses balance while turning.
- Incorrect number of steps.
- Cannot do the test (this will result in 9 clues being recorded against the Driver).
As I will mention in each of these reviews, and as is more thoroughly covered on my Raleigh Criminal Attorney website, you should never agree to participate in any Field Sobriety Tests. These tests are never 100% accurate and therefore can possibly lead to an arrest for someone not impaired. Additionally, regardless of how well you think you will do, whatever happens during the test CAN and WILL be used against you should you be arrested. There is no reason to provide the Officers and Prosecutors MORE evidence to use against you. It is your CHOICE to perform the Field Sobriety Tests. Eventually, I will blog about the Intoxilyzer and Intoximeter, which are the two different ‘Breathalyzer‘ machines approved for used after arrest (not, this is different the the AlcoSensor, which is the machine used before arrest) and though it is your choice to provide a breath sample, refusing to do so carries with it consequences you should be aware of before you make that decision. If you want an overview of these machines and consequences immediately, then you can go here for information: North Carolina Breathalzyer.