One-Leg-Stand Test: DUI Field Sobriety Tests

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The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) created a standardized model for field sobriety testing in 1981. The SFST uses three tests in combination, and the NHTSA recommends that all law enforcement agencies use this standardized program and the associated training.

This standardized testing system - a system that NHTSA has deemed the most reliable of the available field tests - can be a defense to DUI charges in an area where the standardized tests aren't used.

People Successfully Fight These Kind of Sobriety Tests

Even where the standardized test is used, there may be some errors in the test. The SFST was designed to help officers measure the appropriateness of making a DUI arrest, not as evidence to prove that a driver was intoxicated.

According to 1998 data from the NHTSA, the combination of three tests used together was only accurate in 91% of DUI cases. The arresting officer is wrong in 9 out of every 100 field sobriety tests - and those were the rates for the officers who volunteered DUI arrest records.

Not all officers who use the SFST as a preliminary DUI assessment have been properly trained to administer and interpret the test. Accurate administration of the three tests according to NHTSA procedures requires that an officer follow strict guidelines. All three tests must be administered under certain conditions.

The NHTSA procedures for administering the One-Leg-Stand Test require the officer:

  • Instruct the suspect to stand with feet together and arms at the sides, and demonstrate
  • Ask the suspect whether he or she understands the instructions
  • Explain and demonstrate the test -
    • Raise one leg approximately six inches off the ground with the toe pointed out
    • Hold the position while counting out loud for 30 seconds saying, "One thousand and one, one thousand and two..."
  • Remind suspect to keep arms down and keep watching the raised foot
  • Ask the suspect if he or she understands and wait for a response
  • Tell suspect to begin the test
  • Observe the test from three feet away, while not moving

If the suspect puts a foot down, the police officer will tell him or her to pick it up again and count from where he or she left off. The police officer will end the test after 30 seconds if the suspect counts too slowly, and if the suspect counts very quickly, the police officer will ask him or her to continue until to hold to stop.

If you are facing DUI charges, ask a DUI lawyer if the sobriety tests you took can be challenged. Get advice about how to handle the DUI charges you may be facing by calling 877-349-1311 or filling out a the below form.

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