Wisconsin DUI Attorney Nathan J. Dineen Discusses the Walk & Turn Test (WAT)
This blog is the second of three that discuss the Wisconsin Drunk Driving Sobriety Tests commonly used by police officers to determine how intoxicated a driver may be. There are three main tests police officers use to help them decide if a driver is under the influence of alcohol. The three tests are: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) or Eye Test, Walk and Turn Test (WAT), and the One Leg Stand Test (OLS). Police officers use these tests in combination with other factors to determine if they may arrest you for drunk driving. This second blog will specifically address the Walk and Turn Test.
The Walk and Turn Test is typically the second sobriety test that an officer will administer to a driver they suspect may be under the influence of alcohol. The Walk & Turn Test (WAT) is probably the most recognizable test because it is often shown on television. To Jurors, the test seems pretty straight forward; walk down the line and then back. However, this is a large misconception. The WAT is a very complex test and it is very important that a skilled Wisconsin DUI/OWI attorney get this point across to the Jury when cross-examining a police officer.
The WAT has two stages: the instructional stage and the walking stage. During the instructional stage, the driver is instructed to get into a heel-to-toe position, arms at their sides, and listen to the instructions. When the officers instructs the driver to begin, the driver must walk 9 heel-to-toe steps down an imaginary line, turn in a special way, and walk 9 steps back. When a police officer administers the WAT test they are looking for eight different clues or cues of impairment. The eight clues are: 1. Cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions. 2. Starts before instructions are finished, 3. Stops while walking, 4. Does not touch heel-to-toe, 5. Steps off the line, 6. Uses arms for balance, 7. Improper turn, 8. Incorrect number of steps. The total number of cues an officer needs to observe to “prove” impairment is two or (2/8).
Similar to the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus and One Leg Stand Test, the WAT must be administered in a standardized way so the results may be considered reliable. This again is key. The WAT test was designed, studied, and tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA. NHTSA states that if the three tests are not administered in a standardized way, the results will be compromised. This is where having an experienced Wisconsin DUI/OWI Defense Attorney is crucial. I am certified in Standardized Field Sobriety Test Administration. There are only a handful of attorneys in Wisconsin that are. Those of us that are trained have been through the same training, if not more, than most police officers arresting you for drunk driving. It is your license, your reputation, and possibly your future at stake… You need an attorney that focuses specifically on Wisconsin DUI/OWI defense.
If you have been charged with drunk driving in eastern Wisconsin, you need someone who understands what is going on from start to finish, someone who will fight for you every step of the way. I offer a free initial consultation where we sit down and go over your case head-to-toe and discuss your options, likely outcomes, and the overall process. Call 1-877-384-6800.
Nathan J. Dineen