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FST: One Leg Stand (a.k.a. Stupid Human Trick #2)

The One Leg Stand is another test that officers frequently employ as they attempt to guess whether someone that has been stopped is under the influence of alcohol. This test essentially asks the subject to stand on one leg while counting out loud.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the One Leg Stand (OLS) is another field sobriety test which may be employed by officers to assist in determining whether a subject is intoxicated. (NHTSA DWI Detection Manual at VII-6).

According to NHTSA, when properly administered, this test consists of two phases. The first phase is the “Instruction Stage”. You probably didn’t realize it, but the officer was (or should have been) paying attention to your behavior during the instructions. He should have asked you to stand with your feet together and with your arms at your side while he explained the test to you. He never warned you, but he was already looking for evidence to use against you. If you failed to stand with your legs together or arms at your side, he’s going to count that against you.

The next phase is the “Balance and Counting Stage”. During this stage, the officer instructs you to raise either foot (your choice) approximately six inches off the ground, keeping the raised foot parallel to the ground. He should have told you to look at your foot and count out loud until instructed to stop.

Many officers don’t understand the proper way to administer this test. Many will tell you to count out loud until you reach thirty. However, the reliability is severely compromised if the subject isn’t tested for an exact 30 second interval. If you counted slowly and actually stood on one leg longer than 30 seconds, the validity of the test may be compromised.

During the second stage of the test, the officer is looking for four clues: 1) sways while balancing; 2) uses arms to balance; 3) hops; 4) puts foot down. Also the officer will conclude that you were unable to complete the test if you 1) put your foot down three or more times during the 30 second period or 2) cannot do the test. If the officer finds the presence of two or more of the clues or if you’re unable to complete the test, original research shows that there is a 65% chance that your blood alcohol content is over a .10. (NHTSA Manual at VII-7).

Joshua Blanchard holds a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School and is licensed to practice throughout the state of Michigan and in Federal Court. He is a member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He engages in ongoing professional development and is a graduate of the CDAM Trial College. He provides an aggressive defense to people charged with serious crimes. For more information, or to confidentially discuss your situation, please call him at 877-MICH-DUI or e-mail josh@joshuablanchard.com.


This information may not be appropriate for your particular situation, including but not limited to drivers licensed in other states, drivers under the age of 21, drivers with a commercial driver license, drivers carrying a concealed weapon pursuant to a valid concealed pistol license, drivers on probation or parole, drivers who have been involved in a serious accident, or others. To understand how the law impacts your unique situation, you should always consult with a qualified attorney before taking any action. This is offered for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an offer to enter into an attorney-client relationship.

1 comment

1 Антон Павлович { 03.17.10 at 5:19 pm }


Замечательно, очень ценная мысль…