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Is Anyone Capable of Passing the One-Leg Stand Test?

Posted by Terry A. Wapner | Jan 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Field sobriety tests are pretty much all around unreliable. However, observations and “results” will often be used against a defendant at trial. If a Fresno driver is stopped under the suspicion of DUI, he will likely be asked to perform one or more field sobriety tests.

Among the possible methods, there are three standardized tests and a handful of other, non-standardized evaluations. You are probably at least a little bit familiar with the three standardized ones:

  • One-Leg Stand (which is my topic for today);
  • Walk and Turn; and
  • HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus).

Non-standardized tests are infamously untrustworthy, yet still used on a regular basis. These tests are troublesome because there is no set standard as to how they should be conducted. At least with the standardized tests, there are supposed to be set guidelines that should be followed when one is being administered on a driver. In California, two types of non-standardized tests that are used are the Finger Count and Finger to Nose tests.

Now that you have a little more background on the different types of tests, let's discuss the main problems associated with the One-Leg Stand test. This test seems simple, but it is actually quite difficult to execute - whether you are drunk or sober.

Here's what happens: the officer will have you stand with one foot in the air (about six inches off the ground) and then count out loud. You are asked to count for thirty seconds, starting with one-thousand one. During this time, you must keep your arms down at your sides.

When a driver is performing this One-Leg Stand test, the officer will be looking for a variety of clues that would lead to the assumption that the driver is impaired. The primary clues include:

  • Swaying;
  • Using arms for balance;
  • Hopping; and
  • Putting the raised foot down.

Generally, the officer need only observe two of these clues before arresting the driver for DUI. The One-Leg Stand test is a divided attention test. This means that the officer will be checking the driver's ability to follow instructions as well as his physical performance.

So, what's the problem with the test? Well, there are just too many variables that may cause the driver to perform poorly. Things such as poor weather, inadequate lighting, insufficient space, and unfortunate footwear will all contribute to performance.

Further, the test itself must be given in a safe area where the driver will not be hurt if he falls. The surface itself should be clean, flat, and dry. In addition, if the driver is over of the age of 65, has a physical impairment, or is more than 50 pounds overweight, the test should be avoided.

Now, the officer at the scene should be aware of these variables, but often times they either choose to ignore them or simply do not care. Meanwhile, the prosecution will still try to have that evidence admitted against you in court.

These tests are inaccurate and unreliable. Officers make mistakes and drivers are wrongly accused. If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Fresno or any of the surrounding areas, call my office as soon as possible.

About the Author

Terry A. Wapner

Terry A. Wapner confines his practice to the defense of persons accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and related crimes.


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