We have handled countless DUI cases and are always asked about the field sobriety tests. One of these field sobriety tests is the One Leg Stand. The One Leg Stand is a field sobriety exercise that is performed by police officers to assist them in determining whether a driver is impaired for a DUI. The One Leg Stand should be used by police officer in conjunction with other field sobriety tests. The One Leg Stand is merely a guide to assist police officers in their DUI investigation. The One Leg Stand should not be used by itself to determine if a driver is DUI. Similarly, no one field sobriety exercise should be used by an officer to determine if a driver is DUI.
The One Leg Stand is when a person raises one leg six inches off the ground and keeps the raised leg straight in front of them for thirty seconds. The officer will instruct the driver to keep their hands at their sides and not raise their hands more than six inches from their sides. The officer will then instruct the driver to keep their leg up and count out loud. The driver police officer will tell the person when to stop. The officer will also instruct the driver that if they put their foot down to quickly raise their leg up off the ground six inches and continue counting out loud.
The office should inquire into if the driver has any injuries(leg or otherwise) or conditions that would inhibit a persons ability to perform this exercised. Likewise, the officer should give the driver their choice of which leg they choose to raise. The officer should also give the person the opportunity to take off their shoes to help their performance in this exercise. This is particularly important for anyone wearing heels.
When a driver performs this exercise there are certain cues that police officer’s look for. They look for and keep track of how may times the driver puts their foot on the ground or if the driver has to hop to keep their other leg off the ground. If any of the instructions are not followed to the t, then the officer will hold it against the driver. For example, it is a natural reaction for a person to raise their arms to help with their balance, but as soon as the arms are above six inches from their side it is held against the driver. The officers are taught and trained to use the subtleties against drivers as signs of impairment for a DUI. Another example, is that an officer is trained to note if a person sways during the One Leg Stand and hold it against them. This about this. A person standing on one leg sways for balance and the police officer holds this against them. This is not fair. We represent clients who have held their leg up for the entire thirty seconds on the One Leg Stand and they have been arrested for DUI. This illustrates why we regularly advise clients to politely decline performing this or any field sobriety exercise.
The One Leg Stand is not a pass or fail test and it is not scored. It is completely subjective and due to this subjectivity we regularly advise are clients to not perform this field sobriety exercise. The subjectivity of the One Leg Stand is highlighted by the fact that the officer is supposed to inquire about a driver’s injuries or medical conditions in an attempt for them to take any injury or condition into consideration. However, the police officer is not a doctor or an expert. There is no possible way for them to know how much a particular person is affected by an injury or condition they have. We are all human and everybody is different. Two people with the same injury will be affected differently by it. Furthermore, two people with the same injury will perform differently on the One Leg Stand. For an officer to even attempt to give an injury their own opinionated consideration is fundamentally unfair.