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Field Sobriety Tests – The One Leg Stand Test

Posted by Michael D. Barber | Feb 09, 2016 | 0 Comments

The One Leg Stand Test, when conducted properly on a qualified subject on a level and dry surface, yields a 65% accuracy rate when demonstrated and scored properly. Conversely, this means there is also a 35% chance of a false positive. Before the suspect performs the One Leg Stand Test, the officer must give the following precise instructions and demonstration:

  • Instruct the subject to stand with their feet together, and place their hands at their sides
  • Instruct the subject not to begin the test until the officer instructs them to
  • Ask the subject if he/she understands
  • Instruct the subject to stand on either leg of their choosing while keeping the other leg six inches off the ground with their toes pointed forward and keeping their foot parallel to the ground
  • The officer must now demonstrate the stance
  • Instruct the subject to count out loud “One thousand one, One thousand two,” until the officer instructs them to stop
  • The officer again demonstrates the stance and the count
  • Ask the subject if he/she understands
  • Instruct the subject to begin the evaluation

If the subject places their foot down or interrupts the test, allow them to continue uninterrupted, without restarting the count at “one thousand one,” until the officer instructs the subject to stop.

During this evaluation, the officer is looking for four clues of impairment:

  • The subject puts his/her foot down
  • The subject uses their arms for balance (raising them more than 6 inches from their sides)
  • The subject sways
  • The subject hops

These clues may be remembered by using the pneumonic PUSH (Puts foot down, Uses arms, Sways, Hops).

This test is to be scored objectively giving one point for each clue observed regardless of how many times the officer observes the clue. For example, if the subject places his/her foot down 4 times during the test the officer only gives one point for “Putting foot down.” A maximum of 4 clues is possible. While the officer may only give points for the 4 clues that are established by NHTSA, the officer is encouraged to make notes regarding any other indicia of intoxication that he notices during the evaluation.

If a subject scores 2 or more clues on this evaluation he or she is said to fail the evaluation. This test is supposed to be scored objectively based on NHTSA standards and criteria, but many officers will arrest a suspect if the suspect does not perform the tests up to the officers own personal expectations regardless of what is required by NHTSA. Often, an officer will substitute his own impressions over the NHTSA criteria and arrest a DUI suspect regardless of their performance. When this fact is brought to the attention of the jury it is a powerful weapon in obtaining a “not guilty” verdict.

In summary, the National Highway Safety Transportation Authority (NHTSA) would have us believe that cumulatively, these 3 tests, if done correctly, have an 83% accuracy rate of indicating whether a subject has a BAC of .10% or more. Knowledgeable DUI attorneys know that 98% of officers conduct these tests incorrectly, or on an unqualified or unapproved individual, or score them incorrectly. In some situations, officers make all 3 of these mistakes. When done incorrectly, these field sobriety tests have ZERO percent reliability

About the Author

Michael D. Barber

Michael's training as both a prosecutor and defense attorney gives him the ability to interpret what the other side is considering and thinking in regards to a clients case. Working for his family law firm in Dunwoody, Georgia familiarized Michael with Debt Collection, Contracts and Agreements, ...


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