Iowa OWI / DUI Field Tests – The Law on Walk and Turn

The Walk and Turn test is probably the most difficult test for a completely sober person to perform. It has the most complicated instructions, and points are taken off for more than just swaying side-to-side or missing heel-toe contact. Therefore, it would benefit a suspect to review these rules prior to being in the position of being asked to perform the test.

The officer will attempt to find a level, safe area to perform this test. Unfortunately for the defense attorney, this safe, level area is not often in front of the police vehicle in view of their squad car camera. Mainly due to traffic concerns, the officer will ask the suspect to perform this test on a nearby sidewalk or other hard surface.

The test actually begins as soon as the instructions are being given. The suspect is asked to remain in a heel-to-toe position while instructions are being read. A point will be removed if the suspect starts prior to the full completion of the instructions, or if the suspect sways.

The suspect will be given the instructions for the test while in this heel-toe position. The left foot must be placed in front, right foot behind, making heel-to-toe contact, and the arms must be down at the suspect’s side.

The officer will tell the suspect to take nine heel-to-toe steps, on the line. The line can either be a section break in the pavement, a painted roadway or sidewalk path line, or possibly a chalk line drawn by the officer. The officer will demonstrate the steps and instruct the suspect to maintain heel-toe contact on each step, keep their hands at their sides and not step off the line.

Next, the suspect will be told how to make the “turn.” The instructions are very specific as to how this turn must be completed. The suspect must make a series of small steps, turning around, turning the same way the officer indicates. Then the suspect must begin another series of return steps with the correct foot forward.

The turn is the most commonly botched part of the test. Suspects lose a point for going the wrong way, taking too big of steps, or pivoting from the wrong foot.

Like the first set of steps, nine steps are required for the return. The suspect should stop immediately upon the ninth step, as a point will be taken off for a tenth step.

In general, points will be taken off for failing to keep balance during instruction, starting too soon, stopping while walking, missing heel-to-toe, stepping off the line, using arms to balance, improperly turning and taking the incorrect number of steps.

As I hope the above article indicates, the Walk and Turn test is a difficult test when sober, and very difficult when intoxicated.

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