Understanding DUI Arrests in Florida and the Walk-and-Turn Test
Field sobriety tests are roadside tests police conduct during a traffic stop in Florida to determine if a driver is impaired or unlawfully under the influence of alcohol or another chemical substance. The walk-and-turn test is one of the most commonly used field sobriety tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also considers it as one of three standardized field sobriety tests, which can mean the results can be used as evidence against you in DUI cases.
If you had to perform a walk-and-turn test, it is important you understand what it is and how it can be challenged. At Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, our DUI defense lawyer in Hillsborough represents clients in all types of DUI cases. Contact us at 813-320-7500 to schedule a Free and to discover how we help our clients defend against DUI charges.
What is a Walk-and-Turn Test?
The walk-and-turn test is a standardized field sobriety test typically used by the police to determine whether a driver is unlawfully under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This test is what's known as a divided attention test: the police get you the shift conscious attention from one task (standing without staggering) and another task (listening to instructions).
Administration of the Walk-and-Turn Test
During the walk-and-turn test, the police are supposed to provide clear and unequivocal instructions and demonstrate the task at hand before you begin the test.
The test itself involves walking in a straight line, heel-to-toe, for approximately nine steps with your arms at your side. Then, at the conclusion of the nine steps, you turn around and walk back to the starting point in the same heel-to-toe manner.
The NHTSA requires certain conditions in order for the test to be performed properly.
- A designated straight line
- A reasonably dry, hard, level non-slippery surface
- Adequate room for nine steps
- An option to remove shoes with heels two inches high
Walk-and-Turn Test Clues of Impairment
The purpose of field sobriety tests is to identify clues that indicate you are impaired. The walk-and-turn test incorporates eight clues:
- Lack of balance while following instructions
- Beginning before instructed to begin
- Failing to touch your heel to your toe while walking
- Stepping off of the straight line
- Stopping while walking
- Raising or moving arms to maintain balance
- Making an improper turn
- Taking more or fewer than nine steps
Missing or failing two or more clues is supposed to indicate that your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is likely over 0.08 percent. However, this field sobriety test, like the others, is flawed and vulnerable to problems that make relying on the results suspect.
Problems with the Walk-and-Turn Test in Florida
The walk-and-turn test is not a reliable way to determine unlawful intoxication. Problems often involve how the test is administered, pre-existing physical or mental conditions, and unsatisfactory environmental conditions.
The police make mistakes. They may not provide proper instructions or may interpret the test improperly. For example, an officer may count a person's slow walk as a clue for stopping while walking. Slow walking, however, is specifically identified by the NHTSA as not stopping, but it can be hard to determine what's slow and what's stopping. It all depends on the point of view or interpretation of the officer.
Research by the NHTSA has shown this test is not suitable for anyone who:
- is over the age of 65
- has back or leg problems
- has middle ear problems
But other health issues, whether physical or mental, can negatively affect a person's performance. Anxiety is a serious health condition. Sufferers of anxiety can experience an anxiety attack from the traffic stop alone, not to mention being asked to perform a divided attention test.
The NHTSA requires a certain environment for this test to be properly performed. Unfortunately, you do not get to choose where you are pulled over for a traffic stop. There is no guarantee the ground will be level and non-slippery or that enough room will be available to safely complete the test.
Further, other environmental conditions can cause distractions and disruptions, like:
- loud, heavy traffic
- weather conditions (rain, snow, cold, heat)
- glaring sun or no sun at all, making it difficult to see
Why These Problems Matter
These problems matter because if you failed the test, it can be used to influence a jury that you were indeed impaired while operating a vehicle. It can also be used to influence you to agree to a plea deal when minus failed field sobriety tests, you could have gotten the charges dismissed (or may not have even been taken into custody in the first place).
Field sobriety tests are used to create probable cause. Probable cause is required for an arrest. When field sobriety tests are unreliable and probable cause is based on them, you suddenly face possible criminal charges that are not necessary. The whole process can be emotionally exhausting, time-consuming, and costly.
Five Ways to Challenge Field Sobriety Test Results in Florida
If you took and failed a field sobriety test, like the walk-and-turn test, you need to challenge the test result by all means possible. These results can be used against you in court. At Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, our DUI defense lawyer may challenge the results using different strategies. The strategy used depends on the facts and circumstances.
- Did the officer administer the tests improperly or fail to provide adequate instructions? We will review any audio or video as well as speak to you and other witnesses.
- Did the road, traffic, or weather conditions impact performance? We can review videos, photographs, weather reports, traffic reports, and other forms of evidence.
- Did your shoes, clothing, or health condition impact performance? We will review your clothing and health conditions with you.
- Was the officer's subjective assessment flawed? We will again review any videos or testimony and consider if this is a valid claim.
- Were your constitutional rights violated? You have certain rights, and if the police violated any of these rights, evidence obtained as a result of the violation could be suppressed from evidence.
It is always critical to speak to a defense attorney in your jurisdiction to make sure what your rights are and how best to fight the drunk driving charges.
Contact Our DUI Defense Attorney in Hillsborough Today
Walk-and-turn tests are often unreliable and can be challenged. At Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, our DUI defense lawyer will review the circumstances of your DUI event and challenge any results from field sobriety tests, breath tests, or blood tests. When appropriate, we will file motions to exclude the results from evidence. Contact us today by filling out the online form or calling us at 813-320-7500 to schedule a Free.
During a traffic stop in Florida, law enforcement officers may administer field sobriety tests to a driver to assess whether or not the driver is impaired or unlawfully under the influence of alcohol or another chemical substance. The walk-and-turn test is one of the field sobriety tests utilized most frequently today. Because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers it one of three standardized field sobriety tests, the test's findings may be used as evidence against you in situations involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you were required to complete a walk-and-turn exam, it is essential that you have a solid understanding of what the test entails and how it can be contested. Our DUI defense attorney in Hillsborough, located at Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, defends clients in all kinds of DUI situations. Contact us at 813-320-7500 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we assist our clients in defending themselves against DUI charges.
What exactly is included in a Walk-and-Turn Test?
The walk-and-turn test is a standardized field sobriety exam often performed by the police to evaluate whether or not a driver is unlawfully under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The test consists of the driver walking in a straight line and then turning around. The police will ask you to perform what is known as a divided attention test, in which you will be required to transfer your conscious focus from one task (standing without staggering) to another task (listening to instructions).
The performance of the Walk and Turn Test
When you begin the walk-and-turn exam, the police are obliged to deliver detailed and crystal-clear directions and illustrate the task you will be performing.
During the exam, you must walk heel-to-toe in a straight line for roughly nine steps while keeping your arms at your sides. After completing the nine steps, you will turn around and walk in the same heel-to-toe fashion as you did when you first began the process to return to the beginning place.
The NHTSA stipulates that specific requirements must be met for the test to be carried out correctly.
- A specific instance of a straight line
- An adequately dry surface, hard, level, and nonslippery; sufficient space for nine steps;
- A choice to take off shoes with heels that are at least five centimeters high
- Evidence of Impairment Should Be Put to the Test
Field sobriety tests are designed to help determine whether or not an individual is impaired by alcohol or drugs. The walk-and-turn test consists of a total of eight clues, which are as follows:
- Inability to maintain balance when following directions
- starting before being instructed to do so
- Walking incorrectly by not bringing your heel up to meet your toes.
- Deviating from the path of least resistance
- Taking a break while walking
- Raise your arms or move them around to keep your balance.
- Making an unwise turn
- Using several steps, more or lesser than nine
If you cannot correctly identify two or more of the clues, this is believed to indicate that your blood alcohol content (BAC) is likely higher than 0.08 percent. Unfortunately, this field sobriety test, like the others, is defective and prone to issues, making it questionable whether the results can be relied upon.
Concerns About the Walk-and-Turn Test in the State of Florida
The walk-and-turn test is not a valid method for determining whether or not an individual is legally intoxicated. How the examination is carried out, pre-existing diseases of the body or mind, and inadequate environmental conditions are frequently the sources of errors.
The police make mistakes. They may not provide the appropriate instructions or will incorrectly interpret the test. For instance, a police officer might consider a person's slow gait to hint that they should halt when walking. Yet, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), walking at a moderate pace is not considered stopping. However, it might not be easy to differentiate between walking slowly and stopping. That depends entirely on the officer's perspective and how they interpret the situation.
Disorders and Ailments
According to studies conducted by the NHTSA, this exam is inappropriate for anyone who meets the following criteria:
- issues with their back or legs if they are beyond the age of 65
- has problems with his middle ear.
Yet, a person's performance may be badly impacted by other aspects of their health, whether physical or emotional. The mental health problem known as anxiety is quite harmful. Those who suffer from anxiety are more likely to have an anxiety attack during a traffic stop, let alone if asked to do a test requiring them to divide their attention.
The NHTSA stipulates that a particular setting be present throughout this examination for validity. You will not, alas, be allowed to select the location of the traffic stop that is performed on your vehicle. There is no assurance that the ground will be flat and nonslippery or that sufficient space will be available to do the test securely.
In addition, various aspects of the surrounding environment, such as the following, can also be a source of interruptions and distractions:
- weather conditions characterized by a lot of loud and heavy traffic (rain, snow, cold, heat)
- Blinding or no sunlight makes it challenging to comprehend the significance of these issues.
These issues are important because, if you fail the test, the fact that you did so can persuade a jury that you were impaired while driving a car. It is also a tool that can be used to convince you to enter into a plea bargain when, if you had not performed poorly on the field sobriety tests, you would have been able to have the charges dropped (or may not have even been taken into custody in the first place).
It is possible to establish probable cause by conducting field sobriety tests. To make an arrest, you need to have probable cause. When field sobriety tests are faulty and probable cause is founded on them, you are suddenly faced with the possibility of facing criminal charges that are not warranted. The whole procedure can be draining on one's emotions, not to mention time-consuming and expensive.
The results of a field sobriety test can be contested in Florida in five different ways.
If you were given a field sobriety test like the walk-and-turn test and failed it, you need to contest the result using all legal procedures available. These findings may be used against you in legal proceedings. Our DUI defense attorney at Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, may use various techniques to contest the investigation's conclusions. The situation's specifics and the tactic utilized both play a role.
Is it possible that the officer needed to provide more instructions or that the exams were administered incorrectly? In addition to speaking with you and any other witnesses, we will examine any audio or video recordings.
Have the conditions of the road, the traffic, or the weather affected performance? We can examine various pieces of evidence, such as films, photographs, weather reports, traffic records, etc.
Your health, the clothes you were wearing, or both could have affected your performance. We will discuss your health and the state of your apparel with you.
Is there a problem with the officer's subjective evaluation? We will look over any videos or testimony once more and consider whether this is a legitimate claim.
Were the rights guaranteed to you by the Constitution violated? You have rights, and if the police broke any of these rights, any evidence gathered due to the violation might not be admissible in court.
Always make sure you consult with a defense attorney in your area to find out what your rights are and how you can best fight the charges of drunk driving. Doing so is necessary.
Get in Touch With Our Hillsborough DUI Defense Attorney Right Now
The walk-and-turn test's reliability could be better most of the time and can be questioned. A DUI defense attorney at Rodriguez & Williamson, PLLC, will investigate the circumstances surrounding your incident of driving under the influence and will contest any results from field sobriety tests, breath tests, or blood testing. Where it is warranted, we shall take the necessary steps to have the results excluded from the evidence. To schedule a free consultation, please contact us as soon as possible by calling us at 813-320-7500 or through the contact form found on our website.