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SFSTs – What is the “walk-and-turn” test?

The “walk-and-turn” test is the 2nd test within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) standardized field  sobriety testing (SFST) battery. According to NHTSA, the walk-and-turn is the 2nd most reliable of the 3-test battery.

In my experience, I believe that most jurors view the “clues” that officers look for as being overly technical in the way in which it is scored.

Many people also express concern over the instructions given on the roadside and the ability of people to remember the instructions under those circumstances. This is commonly referred to as the learning problem, and it has been studied and written on extensively by Dr. Spurgeon Cole.

There are 2 phases to the walk-and-turn test: the instructional phase and the walking phase. The instructions for the instructional phase, as adopted by NHTSA, are provided below:

For standardization in the performance of the test, have the suspect assume the heel-to-toe stance by giving the following verbal instructions, accompanied by demonstrations:

“Place your left foot on the line” (real or imaginary)


“Place your right foot on the line ahead of the left foot, with heel of right against toe of left foot.”


“Place your arms down at your sides.”


“Maintain this position until I have completed the instructions. Do not start to walk until told to do so.”

“Do you understand the instructions so far?” (Make sure the suspect indicates understanding.)

U.S. Department of Transportation NHTSA

Standardized Field Sobriety Testing

Student Manual, Page VIII-9, HS 178 R8/06

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The Sessions Law Firm
3155 Roswell Rd., Ste. 220
Phone: 470-225-7710

About the Author

Ben Sessions, Attorney at Sessions Law Group
Ben Sessions

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