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Walk and Turn Test in Michigan DUI Cases

When properly administered, this test is composed of two stages, the instruction stage and the walking stage. As with the HGN, there is a very specific protocol that officer should have followed in administering both stages of this field sobriety test.

During the instruction stage, you should have been instructed as follows:

Verbal Instructions:

  • Place your left foot on the line (demonstrate).
  • Place your right foot in front of left, with heel of right foot against toe of the left foot (demonstrate).
  • Keep your arms down at your sides (demonstrate).
  • Keep this position and don’t start until told.

Once you indicated that you understood, the officer should have instructed you to walk nine heel-to-toe steps forward, and then turn keeping your lead foot on the line and taking several small steps with your other foot, then walking nine heel-to-toe steps back. Both the steps and the turn should have been demonstrated by the officer. The officer should then have instructed:

While Walking:

  • Keep watching your feet,
  • Keep your arms down at your sides,
  • Count your steps out loud,
  • Don’t stop while walking until you complete the test.

Walk and Turn Test Clues:

According to NHTSA, there are eight visual clues that the officer looks for, and if he/she observes at least two of the eight, you will be considered to have failed the test.

  • Can’t balance during instructions
  • Starts too soon
  • Stops while walking
  • Doesn’t touch heel to toe
  • Steps off the line
  • Uses arms for balance
  • Improper turn (or loses balance on turn)
  • Wrong number of steps

(Note: If you can’t do the test, the officer will record the results as if all 8 clues were observed).

The most common mistakes most officers make with this test are to give incorrect instructions, and/or to ask the driver to count an incorrect number of steps. The test conditions are usually also not appropriate. (The NHTSA manual addresses the need for appropriate conditions). A failure to give the instructions exactly as stated above, and/or a failure to use the standardized scoring method, further reduces the reliability of this “intoxication” evidence.