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Understanding DUI Arrests in Rhode Island and the One-Leg Stand Test

If you have ever been pulled over by a police officer in Rhode Island, even if for a simple traffic violation, you know it can make you nervous. A nervous state, however, is not your friend if that traffic stop turns into a drunk driving investigation, and you are asked to perform a one-leg-stand test (OLS). Being nervous alone could cause you to fail, and failure of this field sobriety test can be the basis for probable cause to take you into police custody.

At The Law Office of David Ellison, our DUI defense lawyers explain what you should know about the one-leg-stand test and how a failed test can be challenged. We believe informed clients make better decisions about their DUI cases. Contact us today at 401-230-5520 to schedule a consultation.

What is a One-Leg Stand Test in Rhode Island?

The one-leg stand test is a standardized field sobriety test (SFST) used by the police to determine if a driver is operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A vehicle can include a passenger car, truck, motorcycle, boat, or any other vehicle as defined by state statute.

The one-leg stand test is one of three SFSTs recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The others are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus and Walk and Turn. 

As a standardized test, the results can be used as evidence in Rhode Island DUI cases. Police officers in Rhode Island are trained on how to perform this test and use them in many DUI cases to collect evidence against you. 

The one-leg stand test must be administered in accordance with specific rules set out from the NHTSA. Police are trained on how to administer the one-leg stand test during DUI investigations, but that does not mean they properly administer this field sobriety test. 

The NHTSA defines the one-leg stand test as a "divided attention test," which means it is a test that requires you to concentrate on both mental and physical tasks at the same time. This is used to determine if you may be impaired or not. 

How is the One Leg Stand Test Administered?

The one-leg stand test requires the individual to stand on one foot with the other foot elevated approximately six inches from the ground. While maintaining balance, the individual must count aloud until the law enforcement officer orders the individual to stop and put their foot down.

The individual must also keep his or her eyes on the elevated foot while counting and maintaining balance.

As such, the OLS requires the ability to multitask. You have to be able to focus on the mental and physical requirements at the same time. 

How is the One Leg Stand Measured?

The one-leg stand test supposedly estimates a person's unlawful intoxication by using clues. There are four clues an officer looks for while you stand with one leg up, counting out loud.

  1. Swaying back and forth or side to side while balancing. The sway should be a minimum of one inch off center. If you cannot maintain your balance, you fail this clue.
  2. Raising arms for balance. You should be able to raise your arms more than six inches from your side. If you cannot maintain your balance, you fail this clue.
  3. Hopping but keeping your balance. You should move the foot you are balancing on off the ground in succession to perform a “hop.” If you cannot maintain your balance, you fail this clue.
  4. Putting a foot down. The officer will note how many times you let your foot drop to the ground while counting and not yet being told to stop. If you drop your elevated foot three or more times within the 30-second period, you may fail this clue.

Supposedly, according to the NHTSA, if you fail two clues, this indicates your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is greater than 0.08 percent. The police can use this in conjunction with another failed SFST or a failed preliminary breath test as probable cause to arrest you and bring you to the police station to ask you to take a breathalyzer test. 

Challenges to the One-Leg Stand Test in Rhode Island

Although the one-leg stand test is a commonly used field sobriety test, it has a lot of issues. This can make it unreliable and vulnerable to challenges in court. If you have failed the one leg stand, you do not have to fight this alone. You can have an experienced Rhode Island DUI lawyer from the Law Office of David Ellison represent and help you with this. 

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors could distract or otherwise disrupt the one leg stand in progress. Environmental factors include things like:

  • Noise made by heavy traffic
  • Road conditions, like gravel or uneven roads
  • Weather conditions, like rain, fog, snow, freezing temperatures, etc.
  • Time of day, like nighttime when it's hard to see due to darkness or an officer's patrol lights or daytime when the sun is glaring in your eyes

These conditions are enough to distract any person, but having to perform the one leg stand, in the presence of a police officer can be intimidating already, and if any of these conditions exist, it can lead to misguided or inaccurate results.

As your DUI defense attorney in Rhode Island, we will question you about your surroundings while you took the one leg stand and determine if it may have affected your performance. This could be a potential defense in court that we could use on your behalf. 

Health and Medical Conditions

In some cases, a person may have a health or medical condition that makes it hard to perform the OLS test. The police are supposed to ask you about this before taking the test. However, they don't explain the clues they are looking for, so many people say they don't have physical limitations when they actually do.

These health conditions can be physical, mental, or emotional. A person with physical impairments like hearing loss or foot/leg injuries should not perform this test. It is also recommended that people over 65 years of age should not perform this test. As for mental and emotional problems, a common condition is anxiety – anxiety can greatly impact a person's performance to their detriment.

The act of standing on one foot is not natural especially when you are in the presence of a police officer. Many people don't have many interactions with police and can be nervous, which can affect their performance on this test. Failure of the one leg stand test can simply be the result of failing to perform an unnatural task while being nervous.

As your DUI defense attorney, we will inquire into any existing health or medical conditions and evaluate how any conditions may have affected your performance. If we determine a condition could have negatively affected your ability to pass field sobriety tests, we could use this as a defense in court. 

Officer Errors

Police officers make mistakes. The one leg stand and other field sobriety tests should be administered properly. The instructions are strict and very technical. An error on the police officer's part can lead to criminal consequences for you. Errors can include anything from confusing instructions to a failure to keep track of the time.

As your DUI defense attorney in Rhode Island, we will question you about exactly how the officer administer the test. Remember, too, that officers are often required to wear body cameras. We will review any audio or video of the DUI investigation to determine if the office may have made a mistake.

Contact Our DUI Defense Lawyer in Rhode Island Today

The one leg stand test is supposed to help the police determine if a person is unlawfully intoxicated while operating a vehicle. The problem is this: the test is flawed and can cause you more harm than it's worth. Retaining a DUI defense attorney in Rhode Island is your best means to fight any DUI charges.

Contact The Law Office of David Ellison today by filling out our online form or calling us at 401-230-5520 to schedule a consultation.

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When you hire The Law Office of David Ellison, not only are you getting skilled, experienced, and aggressive lawyers in your corner, but you're getting lawyers who understand the importance of empathy, honesty, and trustworthiness. We love to advocate for you.

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