The One Leg Stand (OLS) is one of three Nevada field sobriety tests that police ask suspected drunk drivers to perform. The OLS test requires the suspect to balance on one leg for 30 seconds. The results of the OLS and other field sobriety tests factor into whether the police will ultimately arrest the suspect for DUI.
In this article our Las Vegas DUI Defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about the One Leg Stand Test in Nevada drunk driving cases. (Click on a question below to go directly to that topic.)
- What is the OLS Test in Nevada DUI cases?
- When do police administer the OLS Test in Nevada DUI cases?
- How do police administer the OLS Test in Nevada DUI cases?
- How are results measured for the OLS Test in Nevada DUI cases? What is failing?
- Can I refuse to take the OLS Test in a Nevada DUI case?
- Does Passing nor not taking the OLS Test mean I will not get arrested for DUI in Nevada?
- How accurate is the OLS Test in Nevada DUI cases?
- How do DUI defendants contest the results of the OLS Test in Nevada?
- Does Nevada law recognize OLS Tests in Nevada DUI cases?
- Is the OLS Test the only field sobriety test in Nevada DUI cases?
The One Leg Stand (OLS) is a field sobriety test approved by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Suspected drunk drivers are asked to perform an OLS by Nevada police. The OLS is a "divided attention" test in that it requires the suspect to execute physical and mental tasks simultaneously.
Specifically, the One Leg Stand Test involves the suspect standing on only one foot and maintaining that stance while counting to thirty without swaying, using his/her arms, hopping, or putting his/her foot down. If the suspect makes two or more mistakes while performing this test, the cop will presume he/she is under the influence of alcohol.1
After a cop pulls over a suspected drunk driver in Nevada, the cop will first ask him/her some questions and observe his/her demeanor. If the cop thinks the suspect is displaying inebriated behavior, the cop will ask the suspect to exit the car to perform the field sobriety tests, including the OLS. This usually occurs within 10 to 30 minutes of the initial encounter.
The Nevada cop, with his/her weapons facing away from the suspect, instructs the suspect to stand with his/her heels together and arms down at his/her sides; the cop will also demonstrate this stance. Next, the cop will instruct the suspect to do the following:
- raise his/her leg six inches off the ground, and
- hold that position while counting from 1001 to 1030, and
- watching his/her raised foot while counting
The cop will demonstrate this position of having one foot raised as well. At that point, the cop will tell the suspect not to sway, hop, put his/her foot down, or use his/her arms for balance. Finally, the cop asks the suspect if he/she understands. If the suspect replies affirmatively, the cop will start the timer and will tell the suspect to begin. If the clock reaches 30 seconds before the suspect finishes counting to 1030, the cop will tell him/her to stop counting. For more information, watch the NHTSA approved One-Leg Stand Test Video.
While Nevada DUI suspects are performing the OLS Test, the cop is looking for four mistakes:
- swaying back-and-forth or side-to-side while balancing
- using arms for balance
- putting foot down before the 30 second mark
Each of these mistakes is called a "clue." Making two, three, or four of these clues is a failing score. Making just one clue or no clue at all is a passing score. Note that putting the foot down three or more times during the 30-second period is an automatic failing score. And a failing score means the cop will presume that the suspect has an illegal blood alcohol content (.08% or greater in Nevada DUI cases).2
Yes, it is not required for DUI suspects to submit to field sobriety tests. The con of refusing to take the OLS is that the cop will probably arrest the suspect anyway, but the pro is that it may be difficult for the prosecution ultimately to prove the suspect guilty without any field sobriety test results.
6) Does passing or not taking the One Leg Stand Test mean I will not get arrested for DUI in Nevada?
No. The OLS is just one of many factors Nevada police take into account when they decide whether to arrest and book someone for DUI. Other factors include:
- whether the suspect smells of alcohol
- whether the suspect has slurred speech and/or glassy eyes
- result of other field sobriety tests, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus and walk-and-turn
- results of preliminary breath test
So a suspect who passes the OLS can still be arrested if he/she fails the other tests or otherwise gives law enforcement reason to believe he/she is inebriated.
NHTSA claims that the OLS Test is only 65% accurate in demonstrating whether a driver is under the influence.3 Put another way, more than out of three suspects who fail the OLS is not in fact drunk.
The OLS is an innately flawed test because so many outside conditions can cause a sober DUI suspect to receive a failing score. Six common ways to contest OLS results in a Nevada DUI case include the following:
- The police officer distracted the suspect by moving around or other disruptive behavior.
- The standing surface was not dry, level, solid, or non-slippery enough.
- The officer did not use a watch to time the 30 seconds or otherwise timed the test inaccurately.
- The suspect was wearing certain clothes or shoes that impeded his/her ability to perform the OLS.
- The suspect is elderly or suffers from a physical or mental impairment that precludes being able to pass the OLS.
- The lighting was too poor for the suspect to see the officer's demonstration of the one leg stand stance.
If a defense attorney can show that circumstances prevented the DUI suspect from having a fair opportunity to pass the OLS, it may be possible to persuade the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the charges.
Yes. The Nevada Supreme Court has held that police who reasonably suspect a driver may be inebriated should administer the OLS Test. Law enforcement and prosecution may then use OLS Test results evidence of a driver's intoxication levels.4
No. The OLS is just one of three (3) standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs) that suspected drunk drivers are asked to perform. The other two are the Nevada horizontal gaze nystagmus test and the Nevada walk-and-turn test. They are both more accurate than the OLS..
It is important to remember that a DUI arrest in Nevada does not necessarily guarantee a conviction. It may be possible for a defendant who failed the OLS to have DUI charges reduced or dismissed.
Arrested? Call an attorney...
Have you been charged with "drunk driving" in Nevada? Phone our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys for a FREE consultation at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). We may be able to negotiate or litigate a favorable resolution such as a charge reduction, charge dismissal, or an acquittal.
For information about California one leg stand laws, see our article about California one leg stand laws.