Field sobriety tests explained: The One-Leg Stand test

In today's post, we will continue and conclude our discussion on three field sobriety tests commonly used around the nation. While there are a number of tests that may be able to help determine if a driver is impaired, these three tests were developed and recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

We have already discussed the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test and the Walk-and-Turn test. The final test we'll be discussing has perhaps the most self-explanatory name: The One-Leg Stand.

Like the others, this test is used to measure balance, a lack of which could be a sign of (but not proof of) alcohol impairment. Quite simply, the suspect is asked to stand on one foot while raising the other foot about six inches off the ground. The test usually lasts for about 30 seconds, and suspects are often told to count aloud using the "one thousand-one, one thousand-two" pattern.

Although this test is conceptually very simple, police officers are looking for signs of four indicators of impairment. They include:

  • Putting one's raised foot down before the test is finished
  • Sticking arms out to the side to assist in balancing
  • Hopping in an attempt to maintain balance
  • Swaying side to side in an attempt to maintain balance

As with the first two tests, there are reasonable factors (besides impairment) that could cause someone to "fail" the One-Leg Stand. Some people don't have a very good sense of balance even when sober. Others who are overweight, obese or otherwise out of shape may have a difficult time because of their health. Still others are taking legal prescription drugs that may affect their balance.

While they are helpful as "rules of thumb," field sobriety test results can be somewhat subjective. If you have been charged with DUI and believe that there were problems with how your field sobriety tests were administered, please share this information with your criminal defense attorney.

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