DUI Field Sobirety Tests
The HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) is a DUI exercise where a police officer will ask an individual that is under investigation to follow the tip of a pen light with his eyes.
How is the HGN Exercise supposed to be administered?
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) refers to a lateral jerking when the eye gazes to the side. Alcohol consumption hinders the ability of the brain to correctly control eye muscles, therefore causing the jerk or bounce associated with HGN. According to the NHTSA manual the HGN Test should be administered in a well lit area, set away from the traffic and the flashing lights of the police vehicle. The HGN test requires an object for subjects to follow with their eyes, such as the tip of a penlight. The officer places the object approximately twelve to fifteen inches from the subject’s face and slightly higher than eye level. The officer instructs the subject to follow the object with his eyes while his head remains still.
What are the police measuring?
- 1 – Involuntary Motions of the Eye – If you can follow the object with smooth motions of both eyes
- 2 – Distinct Nystagmus when object held on one side – The officer moves the object to the side, bringing the eye as far over as possible, and holds the object there for four seconds. The officer notes if there is a distinct and sustained jerking of the eye at this point. The officer holds the object at this point for at least four seconds to ensure that quick movement of the object did not possibly cause the eye to jerk. The officer then checks the right eye.
- 3 – Ability to follow instructions – If you follow the instructions as given to you, or if your head moves while you are attempting to follow the object with your eyes, these things are marked on the officer’s DUI report as a sign of possible impairment.
- 4 – General demeanor – Throughout the entire DUI investigation the police are taking notes on you. It is always best to react in a calm and cooperative manner if possible.
Can I fail the Exercise?
NO – Roadside exercises are NOT TESTS. They are simply measuring devices used to try to measure potential impairment.
What if I have an injury that does not allow me to perform well?
After positioning the object, but before conducting the test, the officer checks for signs of medical impairment. First, the officer checks for equal tracking by moving the object quickly across the subject’s entire field of vision to see whether the eyes follow the object simultaneously. The officer then checks for equal pupil size. Lack of equal tracking or equal pupil size may indicate blindness in one eye, a glass eye, a medical disorder or an injury. If the subject exhibits lack of equal tracking or equal pupil size the officer should discontinue the HGN test since the results would be unreliable.
How can a trained Miami DUI attorney help me if I don’t do well on the exercises?
If your case calls for a jury trial, the trained DUI lawyers at Gilbert and Smallman will cross examine the officer on their procedure. Often times this exercise is conducted by an officer who is not properly certified to administer the test. The officer is required to complete at least 20 practice tests in order to be properly certified to conduct the HGN test. Also, a portion of the general population has a natural nystagmus without consuming any alcohol at all. Consequently, the results of the test can be misleading when used as a measure of impairment. The bottom line is that if these exercises are not performed in the manner in which the NHTSA prescribes, the police officer will look biased in front of a jury for making assumptions about impairment, when in fact, they haven’t done their job correctly. We are able to turn the tables on the police and put them on trial.
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