Test administrators are looking for failure to balance during the instruction phase, starting too soon, stopping while walking, failure to touch heel-to-toe, stepping off the line, using arms to balance, improper turn (including losing balance or “incorrect” turn), and wrong number of steps.
The NHTSA used to claim that 68% of test subjects in a laboratory testing environment who demonstrated two or more of the above “clues,” or, signs of insobriety, tested at or higher than .10 grams per 210 L breath. To compensate for the much lower .08 grams per 210 L standard now in effect across the country, the study was recommissioned and NHTSA claims that the Walk and Turn retains its legitimacy.
Problems with the Walk and Turn include that it is a bit of a game of “Simon Says.” Scrupulous officers will be completely forthright in instructing test subjects to stay in the heel-to-toe position during the instruction phase and do not start until the test administrator is finished demonstrating but some are vague about the fact that a false start is forbidden. That raises another important point. Grading criteria are unexplained and officers begin with the assumption that the Walk and Turn and the One Leg Stand can be more “faked” than the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. They believe that every test subject is intoxicated and that every subject is trying their best to cheat the test. So they don't tell the test subject what they must do to pass.
Source: NHTSA DWI Training Manual
Officers withhold information that they will use to surreptitiously reach a decision point. The false start “Simon Says” gotcha moment is just one example of that.
The NHTSA used to claim that 68% of test subjects in a laboratory testing environment who demonstrated two or more of the above “clues,” or, signs of insobriety, tested at or higher than .10 grams per 210 L breath.
The Walk and Turn, or, WAT, is a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and taught by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy to determine reasonable grounds to invoke implied consent under Iowa Code Chapter 321J in motorists suspected of impairment.
The Walk and Turn includes an instruction phase, in which the test subject is directed to stand heel-to-toe with arms at his or her side, a first set of nine steps, a counter-clockwise turn to the left using a series of small steps, and a return set of nine steps.
That raises another important point. Grading criteria are unexplained and officers begin with the assumption that the Walk and Turn and the One Leg Stand can be more “faked” than the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. Therein lies the problem—officers withhold information that they will use to surreptitiously reach a decision point. The false start “Simon Says” gotcha is just one example of that.
Another problem is that officers will typically stand test subjects close to the hood of the vehicle to keep the test administrator and the test subject within the view finder of the in-dash camera of the patrol car. Unfortunately, the heel-to-toe position of the defendant in the instruction phase and in the initial steps of the first nine can be obscured by the hood of the patrol car (because the test subject is standing right in front of the bumper and anyone watching the video can’t see their feet or shins).
Unfortunately, the lack of this recorded evidence tends to make it difficult to grade the officer’s reporting on the test subject’s performance. So all the judge—in any pretrial motion hearings—or jury, at trial, has to go on regarding test performance is the officer’s say so if some of the performance is obscured or completely unrecorded.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI (DUI) in the State of Iowa, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at https://www.daclawfirm.com.
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