Question: Can you explain the Maryland walk and turn test?
Answer: The nine-step walk-and-turn test is generally the second test of the trio of field sobriety tests. In this exam, the officer will ask you to put your right foot in front of your left foot and to stand there with your arms at your side while he barks the rest of the orders out at you. The remaining orders are going to be to walk heel-to-toe, putting one foot in front of the other, touching heel-to-toe, counting out 9 steps, counting out loud as you go. He’s going to ask you to plant your right foot on the ground and take four pivoting steps around while keeping your front leg in the ground and pivoting around it. Then, he’s going to ask you to take nine steps back down the same line you just walked up, and he’s checking to see if you’re going to touch heel-to-toe on the nine steps up, nine steps back.
He’s going to check to see if you did your pivot correctly, and he’s going to check to see if you’re going to stay remotely on a line, which should be painted on the ground but often times is not. Another thing he’s looking for is if you can follow his directions and do not start too early. So, one has to do one’s very best to follow all of these directions and not start too early and to touch heel-to-toe and to do the proper turn and to come back. It’s very difficult to do, to follow all of those orders and to do all of those things. But these are the things he’s looking for: starting too early; your ability to walk the line; your ability to pivot and to come back, and to take the proper amount of steps.
If in anxiety-types of situations, one is not too good at following directions or one’s coordination gets off balance, obviously this test can be very difficult to do and, again, I find it to be very unfair to base one’s impairment characteristics on some ridiculous test that nobody’s used to doing whatsoever, and also asking them to follow multiple orders when they’re not used to doing that. It’s probably best not to engage in these field sobriety tests, and that’s the reason why: because, quite frankly, they are engineered for people to fail, and the court’s do put a surprising amount of reliance on these tests.