A one leg stand test is an examination designed to demonstrate the theoretical disturbance of balance that an intoxicated person is suspected to have. This test is part of the standard field sobriety test battery.
The standard field sobriety tests are three assessments approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Along with the one leg stand test, the standard field sobriety test consists of the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and the walk and turn test.
During the one leg stand test, the subject must stand with one leg six inches off the ground and count to 30 without swaying, using their arms for balance, hopping, or putting the foot down. If the subject fails to pass the test to the satisfaction of the officer, the officer may determine that they have the probable cause necessary to have the subject submit to additional, more rigorous tests such as a breathalyzer or blood test.
As with all of the NHTSA’s official standardized tests, the one leg stand test is not scored on any particular rubric and officers do not have to use a set criteria to determine a pass from a fail.
The one leg stand test is not the only thing that will be used to file a DUI charge against a defendant. There are two main purposes of administering roadside sobriety tests. The first reason a roadside sobriety test is performed is for the short-term benefit of allowing the officer to find some fault with it that they can use as a probable cause justification to administer a breathalyzer or take the driver in for a blood test. The second reason that a roadside sobriety test is administered is so that it can be recorded on the body cam or dash cam of the officer to submit alongside the officer’s testimony.
The one leg stand test is not especially rigorous and many jurors may indeed be persuaded by seeing footage of a subject wobbling or even falling over and conclude that they were in fact intoxicated. This may be rationalized by the belief that the juror feels that either they or an average person should be able to pass this test without difficulty. There are, however, many factors that could impact the performance of a driver on the one leg stand test.
The logic behind the one leg stand test is that an intoxicated person has a compromised vestibular system, which accounts for the body’s sense of balance. This system is housed partially in the inner ear and does indeed become slightly compromised when someone is intoxicated. Other reasons that a person’s vestibular system could be impaired exist and they include:
Another cause of loss of balance could be from stress. Something that is not unlikely upon the driver learning that they are being tested under suspicion of being drunk.
While the one leg stand test is not mandatory, a defendant’s refusal to take the one leg stand test can be used against them in a court of law. In either case, it is a lose-lose for the defendant.
One leg stand tests and other roadside sobriety tests are not the objective tests they are presented as. In the worst cases, they are pretenses used to arrest drivers no matter how well or poorly they performed. If you submitted to a roadside sobriety test, you should contact an experienced DUI attorney.
A DUI attorney can prevent video of an unflattering roadside sobriety test from being presented or being discussed by filing a motion to suppress. By arguing that the results of the test are unfairly prejudicial, or by bringing in a witness to testify about the inadequacy of these tests, a DUI attorney can preserve your right to a fair and unbiased trial and pursue the best possible outcome for your case.