This is the last installment in a series by Maryland DUI/DWI attorney Ed Tayter, explaining the types of voluntarily roadside Field Sobriety Tests police officers administer in Maryland. Visit Ed Tayter’s website here.
In the past few weeks I have discussed the clues of impairment that a police officer will use to justify an arrest for Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Impaired. I talked about driving behavior and officer observations prior to asking a suspected DUI driver to perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. I then talked about the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus and Walk and Turn Test. This week I will be discussing the last of the three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, the One Leg Stand.
The One Leg Stand Test, like the Walk and Turn Test, has a correct instructional position for the test. This means that when the police officer instructs a DUI suspect to, “Stand with your feet together and your arms down at the sides,” they are trained to note that a suspect does not stand in this position and use it as a possible indicator of impairment. The officer is also trained to note any swaying, using arms for balance, or any other physical movements that might indicate impairment. All of these observations will make their way into the officer’s report, to subsequently be used to justify the DUI arrest and request to take a breathalyzer test.
The One Leg Stand is probably the most straightforward of the Field Sobriety Tests. The suspected DUI driver is asked to lift one foot (it doesn’t matter which one) six inches off of the ground, while keeping both legs straight with arms at their side, and to count out loud “one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, etc…, until told to stop. The officer is supposed to time the test for 30 seconds. If a suspect does put their foot down, the officer should instruct the suspect to raise their foot and continue with the test for the full 30 seconds.
There are only four official clues of impairment for this test. They are:
1) Sways while balancing (this can be either side to side or back and forth)
2) Uses arms for balance (this is any arm movement that takes the arms six inches or more from the body)
3) Hopping (this is just what it sounds like), and
4) Puts foot down (again, just what it sounds like)
However, as I said earlier, the officer will note any other possible clues of impairment observed to justify the subsequent DUI arrest and request to take a breathalyzer.
While this test may seem simple when trying to perform it in a well-lit, non-stressful environment; when you are pulled over on the side of the road with traffic zipping past, scared that you just got pulled over for a DUI, even if you are completely sober, you may not be able to pass this test. Also many people have issues with their balance that are not caused by the consumption of alcohol. This test, like the other two field sobriety tests, is totally voluntary. A driver should always refuse to perform this test. There is no legal penalty for refusing to do this test.