Interviewer: What are some reasons that clients cite for consenting to the field sobriety tests?
Fred Dry: Mostly because they don’t think they’re drunk. A lot of people think their physical skills are better than they are. A lot of people don’t understand that they are not required to do them. The police officer isn’t going to tell you that you don’t have to do them; his job is to gather as much evidence against you as he can. So if he says you don’t have to do this, a lot of people would think twice about doing it.
Anytime an Ordinary Civilian is Confronted by a Police Officer, There is an Intimidation Factor Involved
Interviewer: Do you think there is ever an intimidation factor?
Fred Dry: Any time an ordinary citizen is confronted by a police officer, there is an intimidation factor there. They have a badge, they have a gun, they have all the flashing lights, they pulled you over by the side of the road. I think that in itself is intimidating. It makes the driver want to prove to the officer that they are not drunk. I think that people will try do their best to prove that they haven’t done wrong.
An Overview of the Walk and Turn Test Administered in the State of Illinois
Interviewer: What’s the purpose for the walk and turn test? How are the officers supposed to conduct that and what is expected out of the individual?
Fred Dry: There’s a series of instructions for the walk and turn tests. The first thing the police officer is supposed to use is a dry, well-lit, level area to do it. It’s preferable to have a painted line, or a straight line, a crack in the side walk or a seam in the sidewalk. They then provide a straight line; they are supposed to put the driver in what’s known as the instruction posture, where the person stands on the line with one foot in front of the other with their hands at their sides looking down at their feet. The officer is then supposed to tell them what the test consists of and is supposed to demonstrate it physically .
The Primary Instruction is Not to Begin Until Instructed to Do So by the Officer
One of the instructions is “don’t begin the test until I tell you to begin”. Often times the police officer won’t even give that instruction to begin. They’ll just complete the instructions and then look at the person as if they should begin. If the person starts walking, this can be reported as a “clue” of intoxication. The other thing that happens during the instructions to “stay there until I tell you to begin and don’t step off the line”, people often step out of posture because they get bored or they get distracted by something else. Indeed some people lose their balance and that’s what it’s about, it’s a divided attention test. These things are called divided attention tests where you have to maintain a posture and listen to instructions and then perform using those instructions. So its both a mental and a physical test.
The Walk and Turn Test is Difficult to Perform at Night and Often People Don’t Perform Well on It
Then the police tell you that you have to take 9 heel to toe steps. Many times people do not understand what is meant by “Heel-to-toe steps”. Similarly, the police don’t tell you that your heel and toe don’t actually have to touch. But they will testify in court about the steps where your heels and toes did not touch even though the specific requirements of the tests are that they don’t have to touch. Some people will take the wrong number of steps. At the end of the first nine steps you’re supposed to pivot and walk back 9 steps. The police officer will have in mind that military type turn and most people don’t have any idea what that is. They’ll just get to the end of the 1st nine steps, turn around and walk back 9 steps. The police officer will mark them down for the way they turned, even though they might not have lost their balance, whatever.
There are a Multitude of Reasons for Poor Performance in the Walk and Turn Test
It’s a difficult test and it’s not easily done well in the middle of the night, by the side of the road when you haven’t slept from earlier that morning and maybe you did have a couple of drinks but you are not drunk. However, you still might not do very well on the side of the road. Sometimes this is on the highway. If you don’t walk across the flow of traffic that is to say left to right, you walk back and forth parallel to the road, you’re going to be facing the oncoming headlights of traffic in one direction. There are lots of reasons why people don’t do well on these tests, it’s not as simple as the police want you to believe.