Herreth Law
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Can You Walk a Straight Line?

Thumbnail image for romberg.jpegAlmost literally from beginning to end, the Walk and Turn test is designed to support DWI arrests, whether the test subjects are intoxicated or not.

Much like the OLS, the WAT, which is also known as the HTW (heel to toe walk) or the "walking a straight line" test, is a divided attention test. It measures both physical coordination and mental sharpness. Alcohol dulls both these things and make it impossible, theoretically at least, to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Elements of the Test

The WAT looks like a simple test. But both the test itself, and its frequent placement in the three-test battery, makes it almost impossible to perform.

Defendants have probably already submitted to the HGN and OLS by the time the FST rolls around. So, they are already physically and mentally fatigued. Furthermore, as officers give intricate test instructions, they normally require defendants to stand heel to toe. So, they get even more tired.

Usually, the defendant must take nine heel-to-toe steps over a straight line forwards and backwards. During the test, officers look for the following clues:

  • Swaying while standing heel to toe during instructions,

  • Starting before the officer says "start,"

  • Beginning with the wrong foot,

  • Failure to walk heel to toe, and

  • Using arms for balance or stumbling while walking.

If the officer sees more than two clues, the officer usually says the person "failed" the test. This test gives people lots of chances to fail. They must take eighteen front and back steps. They must also pass the beginning and ending portions.

Issues with the WAT

People with mobility impairments or vision problems should never even attempt the WAT. They could fall and get seriously hurt.

Additionally, most kinds of footwear skew the results. Here in Fort Worth, many people wear cowboy boots or flip flops. These shoes affect the way we walk, especially in something like walking heel to toe. Officers usually give people a chance to remove such footwear before they attempt the WAT. But most defendants do not understand the link between wearing flip flops and failing the WAT.

The physical environment often comes into play here as well. In the background, disorienting squad car lights flash. These flashes often affect balance. Additionally, some officer require defendants to walk imaginary lines as opposed to actual lines, like parking lot stripes. That one small difference significantly affects the outcome.

Walk and turn tests may be the most biased tests in the three test battery. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. Convenient payment plans are available.

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