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NJ Field Sobriety Tests: Walk and Turn Test

When the police in New Jersey suspect you of drunk driving, they perform several sobriety tests to determine whethe there is probable cause to arrest you. One of them is the Walk and Turn (WAT) Test, otherwise known as "walking a straight line." This test is common in DUI stops, but can be failed for a number of reasons other than intoxication.

What is the Test?

The Walk-and-Turn is a "divided attention" test, in that it requires you to listen to and follow instructions while performing simple physical movements. It is effective in determining probable cause because an impaired person has difficulty with tasks requiring their attention to be divided between simple mental and physical exercises.

In this test, you are directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. Then you must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. The officer looks for eight indicators of impairment:

  • if the suspect cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions
  • begins before the instructions are finished
  • stops while walking to regain balance
  • does not touch heel-to-toe
  • steps off the line
  • uses arms to balance
  • makes an improper turn, or
  • takes an incorrect number of steps.

How Do I Know If I Failed?

Research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that 79 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.08 or higher.

However, other conditions can cause a bad result with this test, such as a knee injury, memory impairment, or other problems with cognitive function or coordination. An officer should ask you if you have any conditions that could interfere with the test.

So What Do I Do?

If you have been charged with drunk driving in southern New Jersey, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule a free consultation.

If you are looking for more information on New Jersey's drunk driving law, then download my free book, How Much Trouble Am I In? A Guide to New Jersey Drunk Driving Law.

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Steven J. Richardson
Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.