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What is the one-leg stand standardized field sobriety test in DWI investigations?

Benson Varghese
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Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC, a Fort Worth, Texas DWI Defense Firm. Benson Varghese has been named a Top 100 Trial Attorney, Premier 100 Trial Attorney by the American Academy of Trial Attorneys, and received the 2015 AVVO Client’s Choice Award for DUI and DWI defense. Varghese Summersett PLLC is a boutique criminal defense firm that handles state criminal defense matters in Texas and federal criminal defense matters throughout the nation. For more information, visit or call (817) 203-2220. Full Bio


What is the one-leg stand standardized field sobriety test in DWI investigations?


The one-leg stand test is a divided-attention test requiring the use of both your physical and mental faculties. Similar to the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test has two stages: the instruction stage, and the balance and counting stage.

The instruction stage divides your attention between balancing and processing the instructions. The balance and counting stage divides your attention between balance and small muscle control.

An officer will instruct you on this test and then demonstrate a portion of the test for you. Tip: When an officer demonstrates this test, he or she will only demonstrate several seconds; you will have to perform the test for 30 seconds as instructed. The instructions are as follows.

Instructions for the One-Leg Stand

Instruction stage:

  • Stand with your feet together
  • Keep your arms down by your sides
  • Do not start the tests until instructed to do so

Balancing and counting stage:

  • Pick one leg, either leg, and raise it approximately 6'' off the ground
  • Look at your foot
  • Count out loud: “One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three,” and so on until you are told to stop.

Just as the test must be administered by the police in the same way every time, it must also be interpreted in a standardized manner. The interpretation of your performance on this test is determined by the presence of four different clues:

  • Sways while balancing
  • Uses arms for balance
  • Hops
  • Puts foot down

If you exhibit any of these four clues, the officer will mark it as a sign of intoxication. Generally, exhibiting the same clue multiple times will still only count as one clue. If you score two or more of the clues, an officer will say that you have lost the normal use of your mental and/or physical faculties. However, if you put your foot down three or more times or cannot perform the test, the one-leg stand will be terminated for inability to complete the test.

It will be important in fighting your DWI charge that you are represented by a criminal defense attorney who knows this test better than your arresting officer. It is important to tell the officer at the scene anything that might make it difficult for you to perform the test: age, weight, physical limitations etc.

There are thousands of pages of results of decades' worth of research discussing the validity of these SFSTs. There are hundreds of experts who will testify both for and against their accuracy. However, the most important person to have on your side is your criminal defense attorney. A good criminal defense attorney will fight the admissibility and viability of these tests. In order to do so, you will need an attorney who knows these tests better than your arresting officer.

This content was originally posted at The writer retains all copyrights.

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