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Field sobriety tests and operating while intoxicated Test two: Walk and Turn (WAT)

Sammie Eyde

Test two: Walk and Turn (WAT)

The holiday season is upon us. With the holiday season comes holiday parties. Many times, those holiday parties involve alcohol. If you’re pulled over on suspicion of OWI, an officer may ask you to step out of your vehicle and submit to field sobriety tests. This is part two of a three-part series to provide you more information on what those field sobriety tests are and what officers are looking for. The second test is the Walk and Turn or WAT.

What is it?

When an officer has reasonable to suspicion to believe you may be operating while intoxicated (OWI also known as DUI), he or she may request you step out of your vehicle to perform what are known as the field sobriety tests (FST). These tests were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety as tools for police to use when suspecting someone of OWI. Officers look for “clues”, which are indicators of impairment, in order to form probable cause to make an arrest.

After administering the horizontal gaze nystagmus, officers move on to the divided attention FSTs. Divided attention tests measure ones ability to divide attention between mental tasks and physical tasks, which are important for safe driving. In these tests, the officer observes your ability to listen to directions and follow those directions properly. One of those divided attention tests is the Walk and Turn (WAT).

How is it administered?

This test is administered in two parts

  • The instructional stage
  • The walking stage

During the instructional phase, an officer will explain and demonstrate how the test should be performed. Participates should be given specific instructions on how to stand and not to begin until prompted to. Officers are looking for a person’s failure to follow the given instructions. The clues they are looking for include:

  • Failure to maintain balance while listening to instructions
  • Not following directions, such as not maintaining a heel-to-toe position throughout the instructions
  • Starting too soon before being told to begin

During the walking stage, the officer observes whether the person is following the given instructions and whether they exhibit signs of impairment such as:

  • Stopping while walking before completing the test
  • Not touching heel-to-toe
  • Stepping entirely off the line
  • Using arms to balance
  • Turning incorrectly
  • Taking the incorrect number of steps

Charged with a DUI? Get help today

This test is only reliable if administered properly and there are a plethora of ways to challenge the accuracy of this and other FSTs. If you are charged with a DUI, you need a dedicated and skilled legal defense on your side. At Grewal Law, PLLC, our attorneys will help you understand the tests administered in your case and review any flaws in the administered FSTs. We also will work to make sure your rights are protected. Contact us today to help with your DUI charges.

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