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Understanding DUI, DWI Arrests in Sacramento and the Walk-and-Turn Test

Field sobriety tests are roadside tests police conduct during a traffic stop in Sacramento to determine if a driver is impaired or unlawfully under the influence of alcohol or another chemical substance. The walk-and-turn test is one of the most commonly used field sobriety tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also considers it as one of three standardized field sobriety tests, which can mean the results can be used as evidence against you in DUI, DWI cases.

If you had to perform a walk-and-turn test, it is important you understand what it is and how it can be challenged. At Law Office of John Campanella, our DUI, DWI defense lawyer in Sacramento, CA represents clients in all types of DUI, DWI cases. Contact us at (916) 498-8460 to schedule a consultation and to discover how we help our clients defend against DUI, DWI charges.

What is a Walk-and-Turn Test?

The walk-and-turn test is a standardized field sobriety test typically used by the police to determine whether a driver is unlawfully under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This test is what's known as a divided attention test: the police get you the shift conscious attention from one task (standing without staggering) and another task (listening to instructions).

Administration of the Walk-and-Turn Test

During the walk-and-turn test, the police are supposed to provide clear and unequivocal instructions and demonstrate the task at hand before you begin the test.

The test itself involves walking in a straight line, heel-to-toe, for approximately nine steps with your arms at your side. Then, at the conclusion of the nine steps, you turn around and walk back to the starting point in the same heel-to-toe manner.

The NHTSA requires certain conditions in order for the test to be performed properly.

  1. A designated straight line
  2. A reasonably dry, hard, level non-slippery surface
  3. Adequate room for nine steps
  4. An option to remove shoes with heels two inches high

Walk-and-Turn Test Clues of Impairment

The purpose of field sobriety tests is to identify clues that indicate you are impaired. The walk-and-turn test incorporates eight clues:

  1. Lack of balance while following instructions
  2. Beginning before instructed to begin
  3. Failing to touch your heel to your toe while walking
  4. Stepping off of the straight line
  5. Stopping while walking
  6. Raising or moving arms to maintain balance
  7. Making an improper turn
  8. Taking more or fewer than nine steps

Missing or failing two or more clues is supposed to indicate that your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is likely over 0.08 percent. However, this field sobriety test, like the others, is flawed and vulnerable to problems that make relying on the results suspect.

Problems with the Walk-and-Turn Test in Sacramento

The walk-and-turn test is not a reliable way to determine unlawful intoxication. Problems often involve how the test is administered, pre-existing physical or mental conditions, and unsatisfactory environmental conditions.

Police Error

The police make mistakes. They may not provide proper instructions or may interpret the test improperly. For example, an officer may count a person's slow walk as a clue for stopping while walking. Slow walking, however, is specifically identified by the NHTSA as not stopping, but it can be hard to determine what's slow and what's stopping. It all depends on the point of view or interpretation of the officer.

Health Conditions

Research by the NHTSA has shown this test is not suitable for anyone who:

  • is over the age of 65
  • has back or leg problems
  • has middle ear problems

But other health issues, whether physical or mental, can negatively affect a person's performance. Anxiety is a serious health condition. Sufferers of anxiety can experience an anxiety attack from the traffic stop alone, not to mention being asked to perform a divided attention test.

Environmental Conditions

The NHTSA requires a certain environment for this test to be properly performed. Unfortunately, you do not get to choose where you are pulled over for a traffic stop. There is no guarantee the ground will be level and non-slippery or that enough room will be available to safely complete the test.

Further, other environmental conditions can cause distractions and disruptions, like:

  • loud, heavy traffic
  • weather conditions (rain, snow, cold, heat)
  • glaring sun or no sun at all, making it difficult to see

Why These Problems Matter

These problems matter because if you failed the test, it can be used to influence a jury that you were indeed impaired while operating a vehicle. It can also be used to influence you to agree to a plea deal when minus failed field sobriety tests, you could have gotten the charges dismissed (or may not have even been taken into custody in the first place).

Field sobriety tests are used to create probable cause. Probable cause is required for an arrest. When field sobriety tests are unreliable and probable cause is based on them, you suddenly face possible criminal charges that are not necessary. The whole process can be emotionally exhausting, time-consuming, and costly.

Five Ways to Challenge Field Sobriety Test Results in Sacramento

If you took and failed a field sobriety test, like the walk-and-turn test, you need to challenge the test result by all means possible. These results can be used against you in court. At Law Office of John Campanella, our DUI, DWI defense lawyer may challenge the results using different strategies. The strategy used depends on the facts and circumstances.

  1. Did the officer administer the tests improperly or fail to provide adequate instructions? We will review any audio or video as well as speak to you and other witnesses.
  2. Did the road, traffic, or weather conditions impact performance? We can review videos, photographs, weather reports, traffic reports, and other forms of evidence.
  3. Did your shoes, clothing, or health condition impact performance? We will review your clothing and health conditions with you.
  4. Was the officer's subjective assessment flawed? We will again review any videos or testimony and consider if this is a valid claim.
  5. Were your constitutional rights violated? You have certain rights, and if the police violated any of these rights, evidence obtained as a result of the violation could be suppressed from evidence.

It is always critical to speak to a defense attorney in your jurisdiction to make sure what your rights are and how best to fight the drunk driving charges.

Contact Our DUI, DWI Defense Attorney in Sacramento, CA Today

Walk-and-turn tests are often unreliable and can be challenged. At Law Office of John Campanella, our DUI, DWI defense lawyer will review the circumstances of your DUI, DWI event and challenge any results from field sobriety tests, breath tests, or blood tests. When appropriate, we will file motions to exclude the results from evidence. Contact us today by filling out the online form or calling us at (916) 498-8460 to schedule a consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Walk-and-Turn Test in Sacramento, CA

1. What is the Walk-and-Turn Test in Sacramento, CA?

  • The Walk-and-Turn Test is a standardized field sobriety test used by law enforcement in Sacramento, CA, to assess a person's level of impairment due to alcohol or drugs.

2. Why is the Walk-and-Turn Test used in Sacramento, CA?

  • It's used to determine if a person is driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, as part of a sobriety checkpoint or during a traffic stop.

3. How does the Walk-and-Turn Test work?

  • During the test, you're instructed to take nine heel-to-toe steps along a straight line, turn, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. It assesses balance, coordination, and the ability to follow instructions.

4. Who administers the Walk-and-Turn Test in Sacramento, CA?

  • Typically, a law enforcement officer trained in DUI detection administers this test.

5. Can I refuse to take the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • In Sacramento, CA, you have the right to refuse the test, but doing so may result in legal consequences, such as a driver's license suspension.

6. What are officers looking for during the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • They look for signs of impairment, such as unsteady walking, losing balance, not following instructions, and stepping off the line.

7. What happens if I perform poorly on the Walk-and-Turn Test in Sacramento?

  • Failing the test can lead to an arrest for DUI and may be used as evidence against you in court.

8. Can medical conditions or injuries affect my performance on the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • Yes, certain medical conditions or injuries can impact your ability to perform the test, but officers should take this into consideration.

9. Are there age restrictions for taking the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • No, there are no age restrictions. Anyone suspected of DUI can be asked to perform this test.

10. Can I request a retest if I believe the Walk-and-Turn Test results were inaccurate?

  • You can consult an attorney, but requesting a retest on the spot is not typically allowed.

11. How long does the Walk-and-Turn Test take to complete?

  • It usually takes a few minutes to complete.

12. Is it possible to practice the Walk-and-Turn Test in advance?

  • No, practicing in advance is not common, as it's meant to assess your current state of impairment.

13. Can I wear heels or flip-flops while taking the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • It's recommended to wear flat, comfortable shoes to perform the test effectively.

14. What should I do if I've been drinking but need to drive in Sacramento, CA?

  • The best advice is not to drink and drive. Use a designated driver, rideshare service, or public transportation instead.

15. Can a clean Walk-and-Turn Test result prove I'm not under the influence in Sacramento, CA?

  • A clean result doesn't necessarily prove sobriety, as other factors can contribute to impairment.

16. Are there consequences for refusing the Walk-and-Turn Test in Sacramento, CA?

  • Yes, refusal can lead to a driver's license suspension and potentially other legal penalties.

17. What should I do if I'm pulled over for suspicion of DUI in Sacramento?

  • Comply with the officer's requests, stay calm, and consult an attorney afterward.

18. Can medications affect my performance on the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • Some medications can impact coordination and balance, potentially affecting your test results.

19. Can I request a different sobriety test instead of the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • In most cases, you must comply with the test the officer chooses to administer.

20. Is the Walk-and-Turn Test the only test used in DUI investigations in Sacramento, CA?

  • No, it's one of several standardized field sobriety tests used in combination to assess impairment.

21. Is the Walk-and-Turn Test used for both alcohol and drug impairment detection?

  • Yes, it's used to assess impairment from both alcohol and drugs.

22. What happens if I pass the Walk-and-Turn Test in Sacramento?

  • Passing the test may reduce suspicion of impairment, but other factors may still lead to a DUI arrest.

23. Can I be arrested for DUI without taking the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • Yes, other evidence, such as a breathalyzer test or officer observations, can lead to an arrest.

24. Can I watch a video demonstration of the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • There are instructional videos available online that demonstrate how the test is performed.

25. Are there legal defenses if I fail the Walk-and-Turn Test in Sacramento?

  • Yes, consulting an attorney can help you explore potential defenses based on your specific situation.

26. Can I request a different type of sobriety test if I believe the Walk-and-Turn Test is unfair?

  • You can consult an attorney, but the choice of test is generally at the officer's discretion.

27. Is the Walk-and-Turn Test considered accurate in determining impairment in Sacramento, CA?

  • Its accuracy is a subject of debate, and it's one piece of evidence used in DUI cases.

28. Can a medical condition lead to a false positive on the Walk-and-Turn Test?

  • Yes, certain medical conditions can impact your ability to perform the test, potentially leading to false positives.

29. Can I challenge the results of the Walk-and-Turn Test in court?

  • Yes, with the help of an attorney, you can challenge the test's results in court.

30. How can I learn more about the Walk-and-Turn Test and DUI laws in Sacramento, CA?

  • Consulting a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in DUI cases is a good starting point to understand your rights and options.

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