A Brief Description Of The Walk And Turn Test In Alabama

Interviewer: Let’s go over some of the tests here again and what the police officers are looking for in each one and how they’re typically administered. Tell me about the walk and turn?

Zach Peagler: It consists of an instruction period by the police officer that he not only instructs the person on how to take the test, he demonstrates the test as well and the instructions include to not begin until you are told to begin, and a demonstration of how to walk heel to toe for 9 steps and then make a 3 point turn and walk back 9 steps touching heel to the toe and counting each step aloud and so some of the indicators that the police are looking for on that test include beginning before you’re told to begin, not touching heel to toe, and they have to mark which step it was that you didn’t touch heel to toe. Not counting aloud, not properly doing the turn, and then unsteady balance or using your hands for balance while walking the 9 steps. What we see all the time is the police not giving proper instructions, not demonstrating the test properly and pointing out things that aren’t necessarily indicators of impairment.

In Alabama the Results of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test are Not Admissible in Court

Interviewer: The horizontal gaze nystagmus test. How is that performed, what goes into that one?

Zach Peagler: That is the most often mis-applied test, I would say. In Alabama, the results of the horizontal gaze nystagmus test are not admissible in court and I think that largely has to do with the police officers not really understanding what it is that they are looking for or properly administering the test. So, what they are specifically looking for is deviation in your horizontal gaze, turning your head slightly instead of following the pen with just your eyes and the horizontal gaze nystagmus has to do with twitching in your eyes at certain angles when you’re looking away from your body and scientifically that twitching has been linked to impairment but the police officers, and most court personnel and lawyers have a rudimentary understanding that it’s the most scientific of the tests and so for that reason police here can say that they administered it, and say that they used it to gain probable cause to make an arrest but they can’t go into what exactly happened that made that person fail that test.

There are Certain Medical Conditions which Can Cause Nystagmus to Occur

Interviewer: Alcohol is arguably the factor but can other factors really contribute to this nystagmus effect as well?

Zach Peagler: Yes there are other medical reasons that can cause a deviation in that testing and in those instances, we try to gather information from our clients in the first meetings with them to see if they have medical conditions that could warrant eye problems. We’re not experts in that field by any means but we have experts that we consult with that can then further analyze what the police officer said happened and see if their medical condition could have contributed to what the police officer was noticing.

The Police Officers Cannot Perform these Tests Without the Individual’s Consent and Participation

Interviewer: Can officers perform these tests without asking first of all? I mean can an officer go and try to perform a horizontal gaze in front of the individual without even asking them, and start getting the preliminary actions in there?

Zach Peagler: No, because without the person’s participation, they can’t perform the test. It’s a very specific test where that person has to be standing still, looking directly ahead, focusing ahead on the pen or the light following the pen or the light with their eyes. There’s no way to do that test without the person actually doing that test.

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