One Leg Stand Field Sobriety Test Clues and Defenses in DUI cases
The One Leg Stand Test
This page discusses in detail the One Leg Stand Field Sobriety Test Clues and Defenses in DUI cases. The one leg stand is one of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFTS). As a validated test, it has specific instructions and a specific way that the test is to be given. As NHTSA indicates in the officer’s training manual for all police officers in the United States, any deviation in the way the test was given means that it may be invalid.
This field sobriety test also has specific scoring, and the one leg stand clues are discussed at the end of this page.
One Leg Stand Instructional Phase
The One Leg Stand FST begins with the instruction phase. And the instruction phase requires that the tested person be placed into the instructional position.
They are told to stand with their feet together side by side, to keep the arms to the side of their body, and to remain in that position and not to begin the test until told to start. The tested person is then asked if they understand up to this point.
NHTSA says, “In the instructions stage, the subject must stand with their feet together keep arms at sides and listen to the instructions. This divides the subject’s attention between a balancing task (Maintaining a stance) and an information processing task (Listening and remembering instructions).
The one leg stand test requires the tested person to stand on the leg of their choosing, raise the other leg up in front of them approximately 6 inches off the ground while keeping both legs straight. While doing this the tested person is told to keep their arms to their side, point the toe of the elevated foot, look at the toe of the elevated foot, and count out loud by 1000’s until told to stop. This phase of the test is called the balance and counting stage. The test lasts for thirty seconds and is timed by the administrating Deputy.
NHTSA says, “In the balance and counting stage, The subject must raise one leg, either leg, approximately six inches off of the ground, toes pointed out, keeping both legs straight. While looking at the elevated foot, count out loud in the following manner, one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three until told to stop. This divides the subject’s attention between balancing (standing on one foot) and small muscle control” (counting out loud). (P.VII-4, NHTSA SFST Student Manual, 2002).
Instructions Stage: Initial Positioning and Verbal Instructions
Officers are instructed to initiate the test by giving the following verbal instructions accompanied by demonstrations:
• Please stand with your feet together and your arms down at the sides like this (Demonstrate).
• Do not start the test until I tell you to do so.
• Do you understand the instructions so far? (Make sure suspect indicates understanding)
Demonstration and Instructions for the balancing and counting stage
Explain the test requirements using the following verbal instructions accompanied by demonstrations:
• When I tell you to start, raise on leg either leg approximately six inches off the ground foot pointed out (Demonstrate one leg stance).
• You must keep both legs straight arms at your sides.
• While holding that position, count out loud in the following manner, 1001 1002 1003 until told to stop. (Demonstrate and count as follows: 1001 1002 1003 etc. Deputy should not look at his foot when conducting the demonstration for Deputy Safety reasons).
• Keep your arms at your sides at all times and keep watching the raised foot.
• Do you understand? (Make sure suspect indicates understanding)
• Go ahead and perform the test.
(Deputy should always time the 30 seconds. The test should be discontinued after 30 seconds).
(P.VIII-12, NHTSA SFST Student Manual, 2002)
Why it is Important to Give the Test Exactly as Prescribed
“IT IS NECESSARY TO EMPHASIZE THIS VALIDATION APPLIES ONLY WHEN: THE TESTS ARE ADMINISTERED IN THE PRESCRIBED STANDARDIZED MANNER, THE STANDARDIZED CLUES ARE USED TO ASSESS THE SUSPECTS PERFORMANCE, THE STANDARDIZED CRITERIA ARE EMPLOYED TO INTERPRET THAT PERFORMANCE. IF ANY ONE OF THE STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TEST ELEMENTS IS CHANGED THE VALIDITY IS COMPROMISED” (P.VIII-19, SFST student manual, HS 178 R1/02).
THE STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS ARE NOT AT ALL FLEXIBLE. THEY MUST BE ADMINISTERED EACH TIME, EXACTLY AS OUTLINED IN THIS COURSE (P. 8, SFST Administrators Guide, HS 178 R1/02).
Officers often state that a client’s foot “swayed from side to side”, or that both arms were kept raised to shoulder level during the performance of this test. No information on the timing of the elapsed 30 seconds is usually recorded, although there is a controversy on whether or not the test actually requires an officer to do so.
The One leg stand requires the tested person to stand on one leg for thirty seconds that is timed by the administrating Deputy. There is usually no listing of time in the Officer’s report that indicated a client having stood on one leg for that required amount of time. NHTSA says, “Deputy should always time the thirty seconds. The test should be discontinued after thirty seconds” (P. VIII-12 NHTSA SFST Student Manual, 2002).
NHTSA uses the following clues of intoxication for scoring this test.
ONE LEG STAND SFST CLUES
For the One leg stand (OLS) test, there exist four clues of intoxication:
2. Uses arms to balance
4. Puts foot down
• Note that if the suspect cannot perform the test (test stopped or not requested for suspect’s safety), then the officer will assign all 4 clues.
TOTAL SCORE: _____________(Decision Point: 2; Max: 4)
How do you beat the One Leg Stand field sobriety Test?
Here’s a tip from an Orange County DUI Lawyer: One of the “tricks” that officers use to remain stable while demonstrating the case, is to bend the knee, instead of locking the knee, while having the other leg extended. That makes you more stable and you are unlikely to lose your balance that way.
Use of the One Leg Stand test in DUI Cases
In the practical world, officers find most often swaying of the foot (only) noted. However, the training manual indicates overall body sway is the clue of intoxication. Using arms to balance is a very common cue, but that would is only one of four. Only when you have two or more cues, is there some support for a conclusion that a person has been driving drunk, or is intoxicated.