DUI Investigation Roadside Testing: The One Leg Stand Test
This is an overview of the NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION (NHTSA) rules for STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TESTING (SFST) for the OLS test. This testing is used by law enforcement in the most important phase of a roadside DUI investigation the officer's observations of the driver.
One Leg Stand (OLS):One of the three standardized field sobriety tests approved by NHTSA to be administered during the course of an impaired driver investigation is the known as the one leg stand test. This test is used to cause the driver to give the officer yet another opportunity to perform evaluations and if the officer determines that the driver is indeed over the legal limit, he will assert that he has probable cause to make an arrest for DUI. It is called a "divided attention test" but in reality it is a test of a persons balance and coordination and to some degree a test of youth or fitness.
One Leg Stand Test Procedure:To reduce the likelihood of mistakes and in an effort to increase the reliability of the testing, police officers are required to follow to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines when conducting the one leg stand test. The OLS test consists of two stages, the instruction stage or phase and the performance stage.
During the instruction phase, the investigating police officer will provide verbal instructions on how the driver is to perform the test as well as a provide a brief demonstration. Once this phase is complete, the police officer will ask if the driver understands the instructions before proceeding to the next phase.
During the performance stage, the driver is asked to raise one leg with his foot parallel to the ground, keep his toe pointed and the selected foot (either left or right whichever the driver chooses) approximately six inches off of the ground. With the driver's hands down at his side he will then count in thousands (one-one thousand, two-one thousand, and so on) while keeping his foot raised, toes pointed and while looking at his foot until directed to stop by the officer. The OLS test is designed to last no longer than 30 seconds.
While performing the driving is being subjected to this OLS test, the police officer will look for a possible six clues. These clues are identified as swaying, using arms for balance, hopping or putting the foot down. If the officer observes two or more clues, the driver will fail the test and can be deemed to be DUI and then arrested for drunk driving.
Problems with OLS in the Field:The one leg stand test is not appropriate for many drivers based on physical condition. Some drivers should simply never be asked to perform this test. Persons over 65 years of age, or more than 50 pounds overweight or those who have physical limitations such as ear, leg or back problems. Ladies who are wearing heels higher than two inches should be allowed to remove their shoes before taking the test...of course this leaves them stuck performing the test barefoot which is hardly ideal.
The OLS test should only be given on level ground and it should be conducted in an area of safety where the driver can concentrate on performing the test not dodging oncoming traffic.
When administered on its own, even when conducted correctly in accordance with NTHSA regulations the one-leg stand has only about a 65% accuracy rate when used as an attempt to determining intoxication. Any arrest that relies upon the administration of the one leg stand test needs to be reviewed carefully by a DUI defense attorney who understands what to look for and how to recognize errors. Many times these tests are compromised and not compelling evidence of impairment because they are administered incorrectly.