SC DUI Charges: The One Leg Stand Test (OLS) and Impairment
If you are pulled over for DUI, you can expect that the officer will ask you to perform field sobriety test (FST). You have the right to refuse. Despite this right, many do participate, begging the question of how the officer analyzes each test. One commonly administered FST is the One Leg Stand (OLS).
How does the One Leg Stand test work?
When administering the OLS test, the officer will instruct the subject to stand with his/her feet together and her arms down at her sides. The officer will then demonstrate the correct position. The officer will instruct the subject not to start the test until he tells her to do so. The officer will ask the subject if she understands the instructions thus far. The officer will then proceed to verbally explain the test requirements while also giving a physical demonstration. The officer will instruct the subject that when he tells her to begin, she should raise one leg (it does not matter which leg) until her foot is 6 inches above the ground when raised parallel. He will instruct the subject to keep her arms straight and her hands at her sides while counting out loud in the following manner: “one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three…” The officer will instruct the subject to keep her eyes on her raised foot during this test. The test typically lasts for 30 seconds.
How is the One Leg Stand test scored?
Like in the other two standardized tests, the officer is looking for distinct “clues” of impairment. The OLS test has four total clues. First, the officer will look to see if the subject sways while balancing. Swaying is a “clue” of impairment. Second, the officer will look to see if the subject uses her arms for balance while performing this test. Using one’s arms for balance constitutes a “clue” of impairment. Third, the officer will look to see if the subject is able to keep one foot off the ground without hopping on the other foot in an attempt to maintain balance. Hopping while performing the test is considered a “clue.” Finally, the officer will look to see if the subject is able to maintain the one-leg stand position without putting the other foot down one or more times during a 30 second count. If the subject puts her foot down during the test it is considered a “clue.” If two or more clues are present, or the subject fails to complete the test, the NHTSA states that there “is a good chance the [person’s] blood alcohol concentration is above .10.”
As you can see, it is not necessary for a person under suspicion of DUI to stumble or fall over while performing field sobriety tests. The clues demonstrated during the HGN test are involuntary. Many individuals who are arrested for DUI do not understand that just because they followed instructions by not moving their heads during this test does not mean that they performed well. Simply failing to keep position or pivoting while turning during the Walk and Turn test can trigger enough clues to cause the arresting officer to believe you are impaired. Putting your foot down or hopping during the One Leg Stand test can trigger the same suspicions.
The bottom line is that law enforcement officers are trained to detect very specific clues during the administration of these South Carolina field sobriety tests. These clues are not necessarily what the average citizen would consider evidence of impairment. Officers use these tests, together with their other observations about a person’s driving, appearance and behavior, to determine whether he or she should be arrested for DUI.