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Georgia drunk driving: The walk-and-turn test, is it accurate?

There are several standardized field sobriety tests that law enforcement officers in Georgia utilize to determine if someone was operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In a previous post, this column went over the one-leg stand test. This week, this column will address the walk-and-turn test, why it is used if drunk driving is suspected and its accuracy.

There are generally two reasons why field sobriety tests are conducted. One is for a law enforcement officer to see if a suspect is able to listen to and follow verbal directions. The second is for the officer to check one's physical state.

The walk-and-turn test seems simple enough. One has to walk in a line, heel to toe and hands to one's sides. During this test one cannot:

  • Stop
  • Step off the line
  • Use arms for balance
  • Take the wrong number of steps

Both a lack of balance and inability to follow verbal directions are considered to be signs of impairment. So, if one fails the walk-and-turn, one will likely be arrested and charged with DUI. However, this test is not foolproof. It is very subjective and is thought to have an accuracy rating of only 66 percent.

The truth is, there are several things that could cause a person to fail the walk-and-turn test. These include medical conditions, weight, age, shoes and terrain -- among a variety of others. Those in Georgia who are facing drunk driving charges because they failed this or other field sobriety tests may question the results with the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. By doing so, information may come about that may help one in seeking a case dismissal or, at least, allow one to minimize the consequences of a conviction.

Source: fieldsobrietytests.org, "Walk-and-Turn Test", Accessed on May 15, 2017

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