One Leg Stand Field Sobriety Test

The second most common test a police officer will ask a suspect to do is the one leg stand test. Simply put, the officer will ask the suspect to raise his leg and keep it up for thirty seconds. Unfortunately, the test is not that simple. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the police officer should initiate the test by giving the following verbal instructions along with demonstration of those instructions:

1. The police officer should then direct the suspect to stand with his feet together and arms down at his side and then demonstrate it for the suspect

2. The police officer should tell the suspect to not start to perform the test until the police officer tells them to do so

3. The police officer should then ask if the suspect understands the instructions so far

4. The police officer should then explain the test requirements using the following verbal instructions accompanied by demonstrations

1. “When I tell you to start, raise one leg, either leg, approximately six inches off the ground, foot pointed out”

2. “You must keep both legs straight, arms at your side”

3. “While holding that position, count out loud in the following manner: “One thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three until told to stop”

4. “Keep your arms at your sides at all times and keep watching the raised foot”

5. “Do you understand the instructions?”

6. “Go ahead and perform the test”

5. The police officer should always time the thirty seconds and the test should be discontinued after thirty seconds. If the suspect puts the foot down the police officer should give instructions to pick the foot up again and continue counting from the point at which the foot touched the ground. If the suspect counts, terminate the test after thirty seconds.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, US Department of Transportation, DWI Detection Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Student Manual, HS 178R2/00, Section VIII (2000)

The police officer who has trained using the NHTSA Manual should be looking for the following clues:

1. The suspect sways while balancing

2. The suspect using arms for balance, more particularly the suspect moves his arm 6 or more inches from the side of the body to keep balance

3. Hopping

4. The suspect puts his foot down one or more times during the thirty second count

If the police officer suspects two or more clues he can determine if there’s a good chance the defendant is impaired by alcohol.

The police officer should conduct the test on a level, dry and non slippery surface and should take into account the suspects age of 65 years or older, their weight if 50 pounds or more overweight, and if the individual has leg, back and middle ear problems as they will have more difficulty performing the test. Hiring an experienced drunk driving lawyer is imperative to point out the flaws, if any, of the police officer’s handling of the instructions and demonstration stage of the one leg stand test and furthermore, to provide a defense if the defendant should have any other problems or conditions stated above such as age, medical condition, ear problems, and/or balance problems.

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