Walk-and-turn sobriety tests aren’t always valid

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2023 | Criminal defense

If you have been arrested for DWI in New York because you failed a walk-and-turn field sobriety test, you may have substantial grounds to fight against the charge. This test can be challenging for many individuals, even under the best circumstances. Failing the test may have nothing to do with consuming too much alcohol.

What the walk-and-turn-test entails

The walk-and-turn test is a measure to determine DWI approved by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). As such, police officers must abide by strict rules when administering the instruction and performance stages. After providing the instructions, the police will ask if you understand. Next, you take the test requiring a driver to take nine heel-to-toe steps forward, turn around and take nine of the same steps back to the starting point. While walking, the officer will look for clues that indicate your blood alcohol content (BAC) may be above the legal limit. These include:

  • Difficulty balancing while listening to instruction
  • Starting the test too early
  • Stopping while walking
  • Failing to walk heel to toe
  • Using arms for balance
  • Stepping off the line
  • Turning incorrectly
  • Taking an incorrect number of steps

This test has a high rate of inaccuracy, with NHTSA indicating that only 66% are correct when administered according to guidelines. When not administered properly, the test calls into question other factors.

Challenging your field sobriety test

The stakes involved in a DWI case are high and range from economic difficulties to jail time. Defendants want to avoid a conviction at all costs. One way of getting the charge thrown out of court is improper administration of field sobriety tests. Officers should administer these tests according to instructions exactly. If not, the evidence could be thrown out of court.

Additionally, if the police stop you for drunk driving and you have a balance problem, are on medication that can affect your gait or have another factor that can skew test results, you may also challenge the charge. Keeping thorough records of any medical issues you may have can prove helpful in your defense.