DC DUI: Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, Part III

green-alcohol-cocktail-1422791-mThis blog is the third and final part in a three part series discussing the standardized field sobriety tests (or “SFST’s”) that officers administer during DC DUI traffic investigations.  The first part dealt with the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (or “HGN”), which is the follow the pen test.  The second part discussed the Walk and Turn Test, which is the walk the line test.  This part discusses the One Leg Stand Test.

During the One Leg Stand Test, the police officer will instruct the person suspected of driving under the influence to hold one leg six inches above the ground and count aloud.  The officer will instruct the person to count in the thousands (i.e. “one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.”).  The counting will go for thirty seconds but the officer will not inform the person how long to count in advance.  Like with the HGN and Walk and Turn, the officer looks for specific cues of impairment.  For the One Leg Stand Test, the four cues are:

  • If you sway while balancing;
  • If you use your arms to balance;
  • If you hop to maintain balance;
  • If you put your foot down.

In my opinion this test is particularly problematic for individuals–intoxicated or not.  Try standing on one leg for a full 30 seconds with your foot exactly six inches from the ground without at least using your arms to balance.  This task can prove difficult for a completely sober person.  Now imagine doing the test late at night on the side of the road with at least two police officers surrounding you, police lights flashing, cars speeding by, and with the knowledge that failure to successfully complete this test could land you in jail.  In addition, the shoes you wear, how much you weigh, and whether you have any physical health problems can all impact your ability to do the test.

Like with the other SFST’s, the officers investigating DC DUI’s are not trained to interpret an individual’s nervous or anxious behavior as an impediment to successfully completing the test.  In addition, like with the other SFST’s, the officers do not tell the person what cues of impairment they are looking for.  And, again, like the Walk and Turn Test, this test requires that a person exhibit unusual physical movements to somehow prove their sobriety.  For example, if you saw someone standing on the street standing with one foot raised six inches, you would probably wonder what they were doing.

As previously mentioned, prosecutors in DC aggressively enforce DUI laws.  Accordingly, its very important that if you find yourself arrested for a DUI in DC, you immediately consult with an aggressive DUI lawyer who will fight to protect your rights.  Contact Scrofano Law for a consultation today.  Remember: Before you blow, call Joe!