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New Jersey Walk-and-Turn DWI Test

Inherent in any field sobriety test is the evaluation of the suspect’s ability to walk in a straight line, turn without falling, and follow simple instructions. Signs of chemical intoxication often include compromised gross motor skills. Law enforcement officials are keen on the signs of an impaired driver. Your New Jersey DWI lawyer will insist that all proper protocol is followed during the walk-and-turn test, as well as any other test administered during your field sobriety evaluation. The following details the proper way to instruct a suspect with respect to completion of the field sobriety test.

  • The suspect should be instructed to place the left foot on the straight line followed by the right foot directly in front of the left. The toes of the left foot should touch the heel of the right foot. The suspect’s arms should remain at his side while in this position. The officer should demonstrate the heel-toe stance.
  • Next, the officer must explain to the suspect that he is not to begin the test until all instructions have been given. The suspect must indicate that he understands this command.
  • Then, the officer must instruct the suspect that he is to take nine steps forward by placing the heel of the forward foot against the toes of the other foot. After demonstrating the heel-toe process, the officer must explain that after the ninth step, the suspect is to leave one foot on the straight line while taking a series of small steps with the other foot to effectively pivot the body 180 degrees. The suspect must then walk nine steps in the other direction.
  • As part of the rules of the test, the suspect is to count each step out loud, keep his arms at his side and focus his vision on his feet while walking. Deviations from these instructions could indicate intoxication, but a New Jersey DWI lawyer can also attest that there are multiple other explanations for difficulties experienced during a walk-and-turn test.
  • Once instructions are given, the officer must ask the suspect if he understands what is asked of him. If he responds in the affirmative, the suspect must begin the test and must not stop until all the steps are complete. Law enforcement will be observing all aspects of the test including the suspect’s ability to follow instructions. Failure to count steps or to keep arms at the sides will result in a notation by the evaluator.

Steven W. Hernandez is an Instructor of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s) under the guidelines of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).