There are three field sobriety tests that have been standardized for use by police officers in the United States. In a couple of our recent posts, we discussed the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN) and the One-Legged Stand (OLS). Like the OLS, the third field sobriety test — the Walk and Turn (WAT) — is a “divided attention test” that requires drivers to perform physical movements while following instructions.

As we’ve said before, a police officer’s interpretation of a field sobriety test can be very subjective, and the Walk and Turn is no different. In this test, a driver suspected of drunk driving is asked to walk in a straight line, heal-to-toe, for nine steps. The driver is then expected to turn around on one foot and walk back in the same way.

The police officer on the scene may suspect impairment if the driver does any of the following things:

  • Starts walking before the officer has finished giving instructions
  • Appears to lose balance while the instructions are being given
  • Appears to lose balance and stops while walking
  • Fails to walk in a straight line
  • Walks in a manner that isn’t heal-to-toe
  • Tries to balance with arm movements
  • Takes more or less than nine steps, going or coming
  • Turns improperly

According to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 79 percent of drivers who exhibited at least two impairment indicators in the WAT test had a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.

If you have been charged with DWI in New Jersey, then you face the possibility of license suspension, fines, ignition interlock and jail time. To protect against these negative consequences, it is crucial that you have a DWI defense attorney intervene on your behalf early in the legal process.