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Is the one-leg stand test a good indicator of impairment?

Summer will be here soon and with it will come an increased police presence across Colorado in order to keep impaired drivers, whether they are visitors or residents, off the roads. If an officer pulls you over for a suspected DUI, you will likely be asked to perform a number of tests that will help law enforcement authorities determine if you are actually impaired. One of those tests is the one-leg stand.

The one-leg stand is just what it sounds like. You will need to stand stable on one-leg for a certain amount of time. Is this an accurate measure of impairment? Some say yes, others say no.

One-leg stand overview

When asked to perform any field sobriety test, the administering officer will be looking at a few things. First, your ability to listen, understand and follow directions. Second, your physical ability to perform the task.

During the one-leg stand test, you will have to raise one of your legs up off the ground approximately six inches and hold your arms at your side. While staring at your raised foot, you will have to count in thousands until told to stop. You cannot sway, hop, try to balance yourself, put your foot down or show any other sign that you cannot remain stable. These are signs of potential impairment and, if at least two are present, the officer may arrest you for driving under the influence.

Things that might interfere with the test

Not everyone has perfect balance. Some individuals have medical issues that may make it difficult to keep the balance necessary to pass a one-leg stand test. Some of these may include:

  • Tremors
  • Meniere's disease
  • Motion sickness
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Nerve damage in legs
  • Anxiety

Of course, to use this as a defense, it will be necessary to supply proof of a medical condition.

Other things that may affect the results of a one-leg stand test are age, weight and the type of shoes one is wearing.


The one-leg stand test has an accuracy rate of only 65 percent, and that is only when circumstances are considered ideal. The truth is, all field sobriety tests are subjective and not immune to human error. So, it is always wise to question accuracy if you have been arrested based on the results of this test.

Fight your DUI charge

Once charged with DUI, you may feel that there is little you can do to fight it. This is far from the truth. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist by questioning any evidence against you, looking for procedural errors and pursing a defense strategy that will help you achieve the best outcome possible.

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