The One-Legged Stand Test: How Are the Results Assessed?

Whenever police officers suspect intoxication in a traffic stop, they will ask the driver to do a few standard field sobriety tests. The one-legged stand test is one of these. As an Arizona vehicle operator, you have the right to refuse doing field sobriety tests. If you agree, however, you should be aware of the specifics and the potential consequences.

The one-legged stand aims to test your balance and coordination. Unfortunately, just like other field sobriety tests, it can produce misleading results.

What is the One-Legged Stand Test?

As the name of this test suggests, a suspect will be asked to raise one of their feet off the ground and maintain their balance. It is known as a divided attention test because both a physical and a mental task will have to be performed at the same time.

While the suspect is keeping one leg elevated and attempting to balance, the police officer is supposed to look for signs of impairment. A few of those include:

  • Swaying
  • Hopping in an attempt to maintain the balance
  • Using the arms to achieve some balance
  • Putting the foot down due to an inability to maintain the position

If at least two of these signs are noticed at the same time, a law enforcement professional can draw the conclusion that the vehicle operator is impaired.

The problem with the one-legged stand is that it measures physical impairment in an attempt to establish intoxication. Such physical impairment, however, could be caused by something completely different. Police officers could also commit serious mistakes while administering the test and assessing the results.

Most Common Mistakes Police Officers Make

Several simple and common mistakes could affect the one-legged stand test results, as well as the manner in which these are interpreted by law enforcement professionals.

Choosing a wrong location to carry out the test could make it very difficult for the suspect to maintain their balance. A dry, hard and non-slippery surface is required for the one-legged stand test but this requirement isn’t always followed.

This test should be conducted for a period of 30 seconds. On occasions, however, police officers will fail taking the time. The longer a person is asked to maintain the one-legged stand, the more likely they’ll be to lose their balance.

Just like other field sobriety tests, the one-legged stand is standardized. This means that suspects have to be provided with the same thorough instructions every single time. Whenever the police officer fails instructing the suspect properly, chances are that they will fail the test.

Other Factors That Can Affect Test Results

It is possible for people who are not impaired to fail the one-legged stand.

The first factor that may increase the odds of failure is age. People over the age of 65 are statistically more likely to have problems with the one-legged stand than younger individuals. People who are overweight will also experience performance issues. Administering the one-legged stand is not a recommended procedure whenever the suspect is 50 or more pounds overweight.

one-legged stand testPeople who have back and leg problems are also going to experience difficulties with maintaining their balance for 30 seconds. There are other medical conditions that make the test problematic. People who have vestibular system issues and those suffering from chronic dizziness will typically fail.

Research suggests that when administered on its own, the one-legged stand has a 65 percent accuracy rate. Thus, it will typically be done alongside other field sobriety tests for more reliable results.

Remember that you have the right to refuse participation in field sobriety tests. Arizona laws do not envision repercussions for such a refusal. Be polite and cooperative with the law enforcement professional but make it clear that you will not be doing any of the standardized tests. Contact experienced DUI attorneys for guidance.