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What is the walk-and-turn field sobriety test for DWI?

Benson Varghese
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Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC, a Fort Worth, Texas DWI Defense Firm. Benson Varghese has been named a Top 100 Trial Attorney, Premier 100 Trial Attorney by the American Academy of Trial Attorneys, and received the 2015 AVVO Client’s Choice Award for DUI and DWI defense. Varghese Summersett PLLC is a boutique criminal defense firm that handles state criminal defense matters in Texas and federal criminal defense matters throughout the nation. For more information, visit or call (817) 203-2220. Full Bio


What is the walk and turn field sobriety test for DWI?


The Walk and Turn test is a divided attention test that requires physical and mental faculties. If you have any physical or mental ailment that could affect your ability to perform this test, you should let the officer know immediately. This can include things like ADD, ADHD, balance issues, surgeries, sprains, sore muscles, etc. If there is anything you think that may affect your performance, let the officer know.

This test has two stages: the Instruction Stage and the Walking Stage. The Instruction Stage divides your attention between balancing and processing the set of instructions that the officer gives you. The Walking Stage divides your attention between balancing, small muscle control and short-term memory. An officer will instruct you on this test and then demonstrate a portion of the test for you.

Tip: When an officer demonstrates this test, he or she will only demonstrate 3 steps out and back, but you must take 9 steps out and back as instructed. The instructions are as follows:

Instruction Stage:

  1. Imagine a straight line out in front of you
  2. Place your right foot on the line
  3. Place your left foot in front of your right foot touching heel-to-toe
  4. Stand with your feet heel-to-toe
  5. Keep your arms down to your side
  6. Listen to the instructions
  7. Do not start the test until instructed to do so
  8. Do not move from the starting position until you are asked to do so

Walking Stage:

  1. Take nine heel-to-toe steps down the line
  2. On your ninth step, leave your lead foot planted and take a small series of steps around
  3. Take nine heel-to-toe steps back down the line
  4. Count your steps out loud
  5. Watch your feet
  6. Keep your arms down by your side

The Clues on the Walk and Turn

Just as the test must be administered by the police the same way every time, it must also be interpreted in a standardized manner. The interpretation of your performance on this test is determined by the presence of eight different clues:

  1. Cannot balance during instructions
  2. Starts too soon
  3. Stops while walking
  4. Does not touch heel-to-toe
  5. Steps off the line
  6. Uses arm(s) for balance
  7. Loses balance or turns incorrectly
  8. Takes the wrong number of steps

If you exhibit any these eight clues, the officer will mark it as a sign of intoxication. Generally, exhibiting the same clue multiple times will still only count as one clue. If you score two or more of these clues, an officer can make the determination that you have lost the normal use of your mental and/or physical faculties. In other words, with just two clues, the officer will testify that you were intoxicated.

It will be important in fighting your DWI charge that you are represented by a criminal defense attorney who knows this test better than your arresting officer.

This content was originally posted at The writer retains all copyrights.

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