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One-Leg Stand

Interviewer: Let’s go into the last test.

Ron Mondello: That would be the one-leg stand test, and again, a lot of people would call it the one-foot-balance. You know it as when someone is raising one foot off the ground and counting and whatnot.

Let’s just go into exactly what the police officer is supposed to say, and what he’s supposed to demonstrate. Right off the bat there’s got to be verbal instructions. Again, it’s got to be accompanied by demonstrations. The police officer is going to start out by saying this to you: “Please stand with your feet together and your arms down at the sides like this,” and he’s supposed to show you how to do it.

The Police Officer Demonstrates What to Do and Then Gives Verbal Instructions

Then he’s got to give you that verbal instruction again: “Do not start to perform the test until I tell you to do so.” From our past conversation we know why. Most impaired people can perform one function at a time, not two. They can either listen to instructions or they can perform the test. They can’t do both.

The next instruction would be simply, “Do you understand the instructions so far?” and the police officer is going to look for some type of indication from you that you understand them.

Here’s what he’s going to say: “When I tell you to start, raise one leg, either leg, with the foot approximately six inches off the ground, keeping your raised foot parallel to the ground,” and he has to show you how to do it. He’s going to demonstrate that for you. He’s going to tell you, “You must keep both legs straight, with your arms at your side.” Even the raised leg – you’ve got to keep it out straight.

The third instruction is, “While holding that position, count out loud in the following manner: 1,000 and one; 1,000 and two; 1,000 and three; until told to stop.” He’s going to demonstrate a count and he’ll go up to whatever, three or four, and then he’ll stop. He’s not supposed to be looking down at his foot when he’s conducting that demonstration. That’s for the police officer’s safety.

The One Leg Stand Test has a Duration of 30 Seconds

He’s also going to say, “Keep your arms at your side at all times and keep watching the raised foot.” Again he’s going to ask you, “Do you understand?” You’re going to indicate whether you do or not. “Go ahead and perform the test,” and the officer almost always times it for about 30 seconds, and the test should be discontinued after 30 seconds.

Again, the police officer is going to observe you from a safe distance. He wants to see if you put the foot down. He’s going to give you instructions to pick your foot up again and continue counting, not from the beginning but from the point when your foot touched the ground. If you count very slowly, he’s definitely going to terminate the test after 30 seconds.

What about the test interpretation? What exactly is the police officer looking for? What clues is he looking for to determine whether or not you are intoxicated? Again, just like the other test, there are a number of different behaviors that a defendant is going to wind up doing when he performs this test if he’s impaired. There are four of them.

The Police Officer Looks for Loss of Balance

The first one is the defendant sways while balancing, and this refers to side-to-side or back-and-forth motion while the defendant is trying to maintain the one-leg standing position. Number two; he uses his arms for balance. Again, if the defendant moves his arms six or more inches from the side of his body in order to keep balance, that’s another clue of impairment.

This one is funny. The third one is hopping. If somebody is able to keep one foot on the ground but resorts to hopping in order to maintain their balance, that’s another clue.

Then finally, the most obvious, is when you put your foot down, you’re not able to maintain the one-leg stand, and when you put the foot down one or more times during the 30 seconds.

The same thing applies: if you can’t perform the test because you’re too intoxicated or for physical reasons, they’re not going to have you engage in that test. With this particular test, time is critical. It’s not something that should be done for a minute. It’s between 25 and 30 seconds.

Again, this has similar testing conditions as the one-legged stand – a reasonably dry, hard, level, non-slippery surface. You can’t really do it if it’s an uneven surface or much more difficult if it’s grass and certainly if the conditions are slippery, it’s going to be very, very difficult.

Those are really the three standardized tests. They are accurate and they’re accepted in the courts of New Jersey and they can be accurate indicia as to somebody’s impairment.

You probably have heard of some other tests.

By Ronald P. Mondello