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Walk-and-Turn Test & DUI Arrests in Illinois

The Walk and Turn test is one of three standard field sobriety tests that an officer may ask you to perform during a DUI investigation. It is a test meant to divide your attention to see if you can concentrate and perform tasks while listening to instructions. If you fail it, then it could give an officer enough probable cause to arrest you for a DUI in the Chicago metro area

At Dolci & Weiland, we want you to know first and foremost that just because you fail a Walk and Turn test, it does not mean the police have the evidence necessary to convict you. In other words, you should plead not guilty even if you think the failed results will lead to a conviction. You can fight a failed Walk and Turn test.

Below, we explain what this test is, why it is faulty, and how it can be challenged. If you have questions about your specific DUI arrest, contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

What is the Walk and Turn Test?

The Walk and Turn test is a test allegedly meant to determine if a person is illegally intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle – this includes commercial trucks, passenger vehicles, and boats. The test applies mental and physical tasks to divide your attention. There are specific instructions the officer must provide in order to administer the test properly.

During the course of the test, the officer looks for certain clues that are supposed to help him or her conclude a person's estimated blood alcohol content (BAC) level.


There are two stages of the Walk and Turn test: 

  1. the instructions stage; and 
  2. the walking stage.

The police officer should first clearly state the instructions:

  • The driver is to put the left foot on the line and put the right foot in front of it with the right heel touching the left toe with hands kept to the side. At this point, the officer is supposed to demonstrate this step.
  • The driver is told not to start until the officer says so.
  • The officer asks if the driver understands the directions.
  • The officer instructs the driver that, when told to begin, the driver must take nine heel to toe steps on the line, turn around keeping one foot on the line, and return nine heel to toe steps. At this point, the officer is supposed to demonstrate this step.
  • The officer tells the driver that on the ninth step, the driver must keep the front foot on the line and turn by taking several small steps with the other foot. At this point, the officer is supposed to demonstrate this step.
  • The officer tells the driver that while walking, the driver should watch his or her feet at all times, keep arms at side, and count steps out loud. Once the driver begins, he or she is not to stop until the test is completed.
  • The officer then asks the driver if he or she understands the instructions
  • The driver is allowed to begin the Walk and Turn test.


During the course of the test, the officer is looking for eight so-called clues that are meant to determine illegal intoxication. There are eight clues total divided into two phases.

Instruction Phase Clues (2 total)

  1. unable to keep balance
  2. starts too soon

Walking Phase Clues (6 total)

  1. stops while walking
  2. misses heel to toe
  3. steps off line
  4. uses arms to balance
  5. improper turn
  6. wrong number of steps

The presence of two or more clues total allegedly indicates illegal intoxication for operating a motor vehicle.

How can the Walk and Turn Test be challenged successfully in an Illinois DUI case?

The Walk and Turn Test can be challenged on the basis of many factors, including its lack of sound science and other non-impaired reasons that can cause a person to fail the test. 

Unscientific Testing

Though the NHTSA may indicate this test is based on science but that's questionable. In fact, according to a 1998 study often referred by the NHTSA, the test is only 68% accurate – that means 32% of the people arrested may not have been illegally intoxicated and that's nearly a third of Walk and Turn test-takers. The test was created for police officers in the 1970s and used little to no science to create it. The test is also not administered by a medical professional who has the capability to make objective rather than subjective opinions about clues.

Failed Tests Caused by Non-impairment Reasons

Sober drivers can fail this field sobriety test rather easily. Many reasons exist that can impact a person's ability to successfully complete the Walk and Turn test. These include but are not limited to:

  • The environment can have a negative impact on a person's performance of this test. The best environment includes:
    • a level ground
    • non-slippery surfaces
    • limited traffic
    • daylight
    • clear weather conditions.
  • Age matters, too. Older people and the elderly – persons over the age of 60 years – have had a much harder time statistically performing this test, and for many reasons, especially health conditions, like difficulty hearing.
  • Physical conditions can be a great source for failure. Things like brain damage, balance issues, bone issues, and other physical conditions can impact the physical performance of the test.
  • Mental health and conditions can also impact performance. If a person has a mental health condition, this could impact the way the person perceives and adheres tot he instructions.
  • Distractions can test the driver's own attention to his or her performance of the test. If the officer moves around, the driver may naturally pay attention to the officer rather than his feet.
  • Attire can affect performance. High heels, heavy coats, tight clothing, baggy clothing, and other types of clothing can impact performance.

In sum, the Walk and Turn test is unreliable and can be challenged successfully in a DUI case – so long at the defense attorney has a deep understanding of the tests and its flaws and the capability to persuasively explain the same in layman's terms to a jury.

Contact an Experienced DUI Attorney Serving DuPage & Cook Counties

If you have been arrested for a DUI in the greater Chicago metro area, don't assume you will be found guilty simply because you failed the Walk and Turn test. Sober people can fail this test just as non-sober people can fail it. Contact Dolci & Weiland today to get started immediately on a strong, viable DUI defense strategy.