The Third of Three Field Sobriety Tests Administered By Police
The One Leg Stand Test is the third of the three field sobriety tests often administered by police officers during OVI / DUI traffic stops. The One Leg Stand Test is classified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) as a psychophysical field sobriety test. Psychophysical field sobriety tests are used by police to assess an individual’s mental and physical impairment.
This psychophysical test is a divided attention test. The One Leg Stand Test requires an individual to concentrate on two things at once: comprehending instructions and performing the physical test. Police officers are trained under the NHTSA manual that the act of driving a vehicle requires that an individual divide his/her attention among multiple tasks.
The One Leg Stand Test is a 30-second timed test. The instructions for the One Leg Stand Test require that an individual begin by standing in a position where their feet are together side by side with their arms down at their sides. The individual is then instructed to lift one leg of their choice approximately six inches off the ground, while keeping that raised leg straight and pointing their toe outward. The individual is instructed that, while holding their foot off the ground, they are to keep their arms down at their sides, look down at their raised foot and count aloud “one-one thousand,” “two-one thousand” and so on until they are told by the police officer to stop.
Police officers are trained under the NHTSA Manual to look for the presence of four particular clues of impairment:
1. Sways While Balancing
If the individual demonstrates a side-to-side or back-and-forth motion while maintaining the one-leg-stand position, police officers record this as a clue of impairment.
2. Uses Arms for Balance
If an individual moves his/her arms six or more inches from the side of the body in order to keep balance, police officers record this as a clue of impairment.
If an individual is able to keep one foot on the ground but has to hop in order to keep balance, police officers record this as a clue of impairment.
4. Puts Foot Down
If an individual is not able to maintain the one-leg-stand position and has to put their foot down one or more times, police officers record this as a clue of impairment.
The NHTSA manual trains police officers that if an individual exhibits two or more clues on the One Leg Stand Test or fails to complete the test, they can be classified accurately 65 percent of the time as having a blood alcohol content above .10 percent of one gram or more by weight of alcohol per 210 liters of the person’s breath.
The instruction phase of the One Leg Stand Test can be incredibly difficult for many individuals to comprehend and even more difficult to perform. This is especially true when field sobriety tests are given in inclement weather, under poor lighting conditions and when several police officers are at the scene watching. This is an incredibly intimidating feeling for an individual to have to perform a field sobriety test under such circumstances. In addition, police officers have both performed and administered field sobriety tests, such as the One Leg Stand Test, many times in their careers. For most individuals arrested for an OVI / DUI offense, this is the first time that they have ever had to perform field sobriety tests.
Police officers frequently fail to administer field sobriety tests in accordance with the NHTSA Manual instructions. When police officers fail to administer field sobriety tests, such as the One Leg Stand Test, properly, the validity of the test is compromised!
Criminal defense attorney Michael Probst has handled hundreds of OVI / DUI cases and has significant experience reviewing video and audio evidence of the administration of One Leg Stand Tests by police officers during traffic stops and challenging the administration of One Leg Stand Tests at suppression hearings. A thorough and exhaustive defense of the administration of the One Leg Stand Test from a DUI attorney is crucial to every OVI / DUI case.