The One-Leg-Stand Portion of the Field Sobriety Test

The One-Leg-Stand is the third and final portion of the NHTSA Field Sobriety test you can expect to have conducted by Police during a DUI stop. A skilled DUI Lawyer can give you a comprehensive explanation of the entire DUI Field Sobriety Test and how the results of your One-Leg-Stand can be downplayed or used to your advantage,

Like the Walk-and-Turn, the One-Leg-Stand is divided into two stages. First is the “Instruction Stage” followed by the “Balance and Counting Stage”. During the Instruction Stage, you are being evaluated. While nothing the officer observes during this stage is a “clue of impairment”, everything the officer observes is admissible at trial. As such, if you start the test before the officer tells you to begin, the officer will note that and will testify that you did so despite the fact that it has no scientific value as to whether or not you’re impaired. While that alone won’t result in a conviction for DUI, it’s important to follow the officer’s instructions and NOT start the exam until told to do so.

The officer’s instructions will sound something like this:

“Please stand with your feet together and your arms down by your side like this (demonstrates). Do not start to perform the test until I tell you to do so. Do you understand the instructions so far?”

Then the officer will say something like this:

“When I tell you to start, raise one leg, either leg, with the foot approximately six inches off the ground, keeping your raised foot parallel to the ground (demonstrate). Keep both legs straight, arms down by your side.”

“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 (demonstrate). Keep your arms at your sides at all times and keep watching the raised foot. Do you understand? Go ahead and perform the test.”

The officer is supposed to terminate the test after 30 seconds and to make note of the following “clues of impairment”:

1)      Sways while balancing – The DUI officer should be looking for a side-to-side or back-and-forth motion while the DUI suspect is in the one-leg stand position.

2)      Uses arms for balance – The DUI officer should be watching to see if the DUI suspect’s arms rise six or more inches from the body in order to keep balance.

3)      Hopping – The DUI officer is watching to see if the DUI suspect begins hopping on his/her planted foot.

4)      Puts foot down – Putting the foot down one or more times in 30 seconds is considered a clue of impairment.

In their Field Sobriety Training, Police Officers are trained to believe that demonstrating 2 or more of the above clues during the One-Leg-Stand is evidence of a blood alcohol level of .10 or higher on 65% of people tested.

There are many problems with this test and a good DUI Defense Attorney should be skilled at understanding this test and taking it apart.

First is timing. Police Officers are trained on the importance of making sure the suspect’s foot is in the air for 30 seconds. This is because, according to their training, someone with a .10 blood alcohol level may be able to keep their foot in the air for 25 seconds, but not for 30 seconds. Well, if 5 seconds makes that much of a difference on the one end, it certainly makes a difference on the other. As such, if the Officer had you keep your foot up for LONGER than 30 seconds, anything done after the 30 second mark should not be considered a clue of impairment.

Secondly, environmental conditions should be considered when giving the test. Officers are instructed that the test requires reasonably dry, hard, level and non-slippery surfaces in order to administer the test. As such, evidence that the surface you were tested on was not dry, hard, level or non-slippery is evidence that the test’s results are invalid. A good DUI Defense Attorney will suggest that you (or another potential witness) go back to the scene with a small level and take pictures of the carpenter’s level on the surface where your test was given. Any indication of a sloped surface would obviously throw the results of your examination into question.

Third, anyone 65 years of age or older, 50lbs or more overweight or anyone suffering from back, leg or inner ear problems have difficulty performing this test stone sober. These are all questions the officer should pose before administering the test or observations he should make without asking. Failure to do so demonstrates sloppy workmanship and brings the overall administration of the test into question. Furthermore, these figures aren’t just some magical threshold that, once passed, you’re suddenly incapable of taking the test. So, if you’re close to 65 or close to 50lbs overweight, if could affect the outcome of the test. A skilled DUI Lawyer can get the arresting officer to admit this on cross-examination.

Next, the whole test is just silly and a good DUI Attorney can demonstrate that. A jury full of young athletic men might think there’s nothing to it, but a jury full of average people are, justifiably, going to wonder whether or not any of them can keep their foot in the air like that for 30 seconds without trying to use their arms for balance. This is, of course, is why the test is only 65% reliable under optimal conditions with optimal suspects in an optimal and controlled environment.

If you were given the One-Leg-Stand portion of the Field Sobriety Test and were subsequently arrested for DUI, you should consult with an experienced DUI Attorney. Only a law firm specializing in DUI defense can fully ensure you have the best information available to attack the results of your Field Sobriety Test.

If you, or someone you know, has been charged with DUI in Georgia, get them the best defense possible. Contact DUI Attorney Jason Carnell by visiting his website at http://www.carnellfirm.com. You can reach him by email at jason@carnellfirm.com or by phone at 770-729-4809.

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