Every driver knows the feeling of driving down the road, only to see the flashing red and blue lights of a police car in the rear view mirror. You have that normal moment — where you think, maybe it’s not for me? It’s not until after starting to pull to the side — to let the officer pass — that you quickly realize you are in fact the one being pulled over.
What happens next can greatly alter your life, depending on the circumstances of the pull over. If you had a few drinks beforehand — or for some reason the officer thinks you did — what happens next will determine if you are under arrest or not.
The walk-and-turn field sobriety test
Being asked to get our of your car by an officer is nerve-wracking. Even if you are completely sober and have done nothing wrong, it’s normal to be nervous. Especially if the officer is already asking if you have been drinking, you can bet that he or she is already suspecting you of being under the influence.
The walk-and-turn test is one of several tests that an officer may use to try to determine if there is probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of driving under the influence. The walk-and-turn test gauges several things, including your ability to follow a series of simple instructions, along with balance and agility.
How does it work?
With the walk-and-turn test, the officer is going to ask you to walk a straight line with your arms at shoulder height, extended out to each side. The test will involve walking a straight line, then turning around and performing the test again, in the opposite direction. In a walk-and-turn test, you must walk with the heels of one of your feet at the toes of the other.
Problems that can arise
If you stumble or even sway while performing a walk-and-turn field sobriety test, the officer may use that as probable cause to arrest you.
The problem with the walk-and-turn test is that it does not take people’s abilities into account. Not all people can walk in a straight line — regardless of whether they have been drinking. Yet for others, tiredness or taking certain medications can also mess with balance.
The good news is that a DUI arrest is not the same as a DUI conviction and there is still time to fight any accusations.