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Walk and turn field sobriety test – What do Police look for?

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Dale Savage Law Firm, LLC > DUI  > Walk and turn field sobriety test – What do Police look for?

Walk and turn field sobriety test – What do Police look for?

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Walk and turn field sobriety test – What do Police look for?

Walk and Turn Field Sobriety Test

The walk and turn field sobriety test.  It all starts when the officer says “I want you to step outside the car and do some tests.”  Sounds harmless right?  What tests?  Can I refuse?  What happens if I refuse?

In South Carolina there is no penalty to refusing to submit to the field sobriety test.  Does that mean you wont be arrested? No, in fact some police departments use that as a basis to arrest you for a DUI.  But in South Carolina your license is not license suspended for refusing to perform a field sobriety test.  That’s why you need to consult a Charleston DUI Lawyer to understand your rights.

So what is the walk and turn filed sobriety test?  The walk and turn field sobriety test is referred to a divided attention test.  This means that you must concentrate on more than one thing at a time, in this test a mental and physical task.  The theory behind the test is that alcohol reduces a person ability to divide attention and because driving requires divided attention such as control steering, acceleration, braking and react to a changing environment.

The walk and turn test is a divided attention test consisting of two stages:

  • Instructions stage;
  • Walking stage.

The instructions stage divides the subject’s attention between a balancing task (standing while maintaining a heel-to-toe position) and information processing task (listening and remembering instructions)

In the walk-and-turn field sobriety test, you are instructed to take nine heel-to-toe steps, along a straight line, turn is a prescribed manner, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back while watching your feet and counting the steps out loud.  During the turn, you must keep your front foot planted on the ground and turn in a series of small steps.

In scoring this test, law enforcement officials are trained to give only one point for each item observed (even if it is observed more than once) with a maximum score of 9 points.

It’s not a pass or fail

You don’t pass or fail a field sobriety test but rather officers administering the test observe your performance for eight (8) clues.

  1. Cannot keep balance while listening to instructions;
  • Two tasks are required at point: you must balance heel-to-toe on the line and, at the same time, listen to the instructions.


  1. Starts to soon;
  • You are required to follow the officer’s instructions of not begin until they are finished.


  1. Stops while walking;
  • It is considered a clue if you pause or stop once you have started.


  1. Does not touch heel-to-toe;
  • If you leave a space of more than one half inch between and heel to toe step the officer will mark this as a clue.


  1. Steps off the line;
  • Stepping off the line is considered a clue.


  1. Uses arms to balance;
  • Raise one or both arms more than six inches is considered a clue.


  1. Improper turn;
  • If both feet are moved then this is a clue. Also if you pivot in one full movement instead of a series of small steps then that is a clue.


  1. Incorrect number of steps.
  • Walk more or less than nine (9) steps then that is a clue.

Police are trained that if you exhibit two or more clues then you will have a breath alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater.

Charleston DUI Attorney

Ready for your Free Consultation regarding the walk and turn field sobriety test, call today (843) 530-7813.  You will speak directly with a Charleston DUI attorney about your case and get the answers you need to help understand your arrest and the field sobriety test.

Dale Savage


The Dale Savage Law Firm focusses on Criminal Defense, DUI, and Personal Injury. We are located in historic Charleston, South Carolina. Call (843) 530-7813.

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