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Explaining the One Leg Stand Test

Thumbnail image for AdobeStock_116715709 (1).jpegIn many ways, the OLS is the classic DWI field sobriety test. This divided attention test measures both mental acuity and physical dexterity. Usually, people who are intoxicated cannot walk and chew gum at the same time in this way. That's why alcohol is such as dangerous driving impairment substance.

During arrests, Parker County peace officers use the OLS and the other two field sobriety tests to establish probable cause for arrest. This evidentiary standard is so low that it's difficult, but not impossible, to get a case thrown out of court for lack of probable cause.

However, if the defendant refuses to perform field sobriety tests, Parker County prosecutors must use the OLS as evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. That's a much higher standard. So, at this phase, this test's reliability (or lack thereof) often takes center stage for Parker County DWI defense attorneys.

Clues in the OLS

Test procedures vary slightly among different police departments. But the underlying test remains the same. Defendants must elevate one leg to about a 54-degree angle and keep it there for about fifteen seconds. As the subject balances on one foot, the officer looks for clues, such as:

  • Using arms for balance,

  • Swaying,

  • Holding the leg at the wrong angle,

  • Lifting the wrong leg (i.e. the left instead of the right),

  • Moving the uplifted leg, or

  • Putting the elevated leg down too early.

Generally, if a defendant exhibits more than two clues during this test, officers testify that the defendant "failed" the OLS.

Challenging the Results

People with any mobility impairment or muscle weakness usually cannot stand on one leg whether they are drunk or sober. Generally, officers refuse to give any accommodations. For example, if you have a prior left knee injury and ask to balance on your right foot, the officer almost always says "no."

Many people do not even get that far. By design, test subjects have no idea what to expect. So, they may not know what kind of accommodation to ask for. They just fail the test.

However, "failing" the OLS is a very subjective thing. Officers typically pin clues on defendants because of technicalities, such as dropping the leg after only fourteen-and-a-half seconds.

In circumstantial evidence matters like the OLS, the Parker County jury has the final say. Jurors can interpret field sobriety test evidence in the way they feel is proper, based on all the facts in the case.

A One Leg Stand test is not proof of intoxication in court. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. Home and jail visits are available.

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