The One-Leg Stand Test is a field sobriety test used by officers during an investigation for suspicion of driving while impaired (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI). If you are pulled over, and an officer asks you to step out of the vehicle, they may put you through field sobriety testing. These commonly include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test, Walk-and-Turn Test, and One-Leg Stand Test. Depending on the results of those, which the officer almost always says you failed, they will likely ask you to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT) as the final field sobriety test before determining whether to arrest you on suspicion of DWI. In cases where the officer suspects a person of driving under the influence of drugs, they will often do the HGN, possibly the other coordination tests, but they will also often conduct other testing for drug recognition, such as taking a person’s pulse.

In the One-Leg Stand Test, before the test begins, the police officer should ask the driver before if they have any problems affecting their balance. This would be the time to tell the officer about your old knee injury from high school football that makes it hard to balance. If the officer decides to move forward with testing, they will then tell the driver to raise one leg off the ground about six inches, hold their arms at their side, and count one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, and so forth until the officer tells them to stop.

Officers are trained to look for different “clues” during this test. Those are: swaying, using arms for balance, putting their foot down or hopping, etc. The officer only needs to witness two clues for them to consider the driver to have failed the test.

For the most reliable (if that is even possible) one-leg stand test, it should be done on a level, flat, reasonably dry, and non-slippery surface. Certain factors can affect the results of the test. If the person is sixty-five years old or older, they are more than fifty pounds overweight, they have balance issues, leg, back, knee, or foot problems. Also, the footwear of the driver can affect the test. If a person is wearing a heel over two inches or higher, flip-flops, or platform shoes the officer should give the driver the opportunity to perform the test barefoot rather than in their footwear. External factors, such as the wind, rain, snow, and cars passing by also affect the performance of the test.

While officers may show a driver how the test should be completed, they often do not tell the drivers the secret of the test. Officers will often lean back while they hold their leg in the air during the one-leg stand test. This allows them to keep their balance more easily than if they are standing straight up. However, they do not tell drivers this little secret, which results commonly in the driver trying to complete the test while standing straight up, which makes it more difficult to complete.

The one-leg stand test is one of the common field sobriety tests used by MN law enforcement officers. Often, we recommend a person should refuse to take the coordination tests, such as the one-leg stand test and walk-and-turn test. We also recommend refusing to participate in the HGN test. These tests are often skewed in the favor of law enforcement, which will give the prosecution more arguments to make against you in your case. If you think you are close to the legal limit, then you can ask the officer to take the PBT. If that PBT gives a reading well under .08, then the officer may allow you to drive away or have a person who is completely sober come pick you up. The most important test to consider whether you should refuse or not is the evidentiary breath, blood, or urine test which is often conducted at the police department, jail, or hospital. Before deciding to take an evidentiary breath test, the officer should give you an opportunity to consult with a Minneapolis DWI lawyer. Take that opportunity. We, and many other respected firms, offer consultations at no charge.


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