Understanding the One Leg Stand Test – Standardized Field Sobriety Test

The One leg stand test is one of the three standardized field sobriety tests police officers use in DWI investigations.  The officer It is a divided attention test that is designed to develop probable cause for a DWI arrest.

What does it entail?

The one leg stand test evaluates the subject in two phases.

There are two phases the instruction stage and the balance and counting stage.  In the instruction phase the person must stand with his or her feet together, keep arms at the sides and listen to the instructions.  The person’s attention is divided between balancing and information processing.  In the second stage, the person must raise on leg with the foot about six inches off the ground, keeping the foot parallel to the ground.  The person has to count out loud like “one thousand and one” , “one thousand and two” all the way to thirty.

What are the clues?

After the DWI stop, a person will be given the DWI SFSTs.  In the one leg stand, the officer looks for four clues:

The person:

  1. sways while balancing
  2. uses arms to balance;
  3. hops;
  4. puts his or her foot down.

How many clues does an officer need to observe?

The officer only needs to observe two of the clues for the person to fail the test.  Also a person that puts his or her foot down three or more times during the thirty seconds cannot do the test.

Is failing the test the end of it?

The officer has to determine whether he or she has probable cause for an arrest.  This test is only part of that.  Failing this test alone won’t create probable cause to suspect DWI in most cases.  However, the other observations an officer makes may create probable cause for arrest.

Failing this test does not mean that jurors will necessary put any weight on it.

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