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What Is the Point of the One-Leg Stand Field Sobriety Test?


In Tennessee, driving while impaired is a serious offense. If a law enforcement officer suspects that you are driving while under the influence of an impairing substance, the officer will likely pull you over and ask you to perform field sobriety testing. There are three standardized tests utilized nationwide, one of which is the one-leg stand test.

How does one perform the one-leg stand test? How accurate is it? Do I have the right to refuse to perform this test?

One-leg stand overview

To perform the one-leg stand test, you will need to raise one foot off the ground and hold it steady while staring at it and counting. Sounds simple, yes? Not necessarily. You cannot do anything to help you balance yourself, such as:

  • Swaying

  • Hopping

  • Lowering your foot

  • Using your arms

If you do perform at least two of these actions, an officer may take it as a sign of impairment. This may result in your arrest.

Accuracy rating

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes this test to be highly accurate, which is why police use it as a standardized field sobriety test. However, others claim that it only has an accuracy rating of 65 percent.

What may affect the outcome?

There are a number of things that can affect the outcome of a one-leg stand test. Your weight, the shoes you were wearing and the condition of the road are a few. Medical issues can also have a drastic impact on the test results. Medical conditions that may affect one's balance include:

  • Tremor

  • Inner ear issue

  • Motion sickness

  • Blood pressure problems

  • Nerve damage in legs

  • Anxiety

To use a medical condition as a criminal defense, you will have to show proof of diagnosis.

You always have the right to refuse to comply with an officer's request to submit to a field sobriety test. This, however, is not without consequences.

Fighting your DUI charge

The point of the one-leg stand test is to check two things: mental state and physical ability. Unfortunately, this test is subjective, and any number of things can affect the outcome.

If you are facing a DUI charge based on the result of a one-leg stand test, you have the right to defend yourself. An experienced attorney can help you as you seek the best outcome possible for your circumstances.