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What is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test?

Sometimes it can feel as if police are like vultures, circling, looking for any misstep that could allow them to take action. This can appear to be especially true when it comes to traffic violations. Whether an individual drives slightly above the speed limit, fails to completely stop at a stop sign or momentarily crosses the centerline, a police officer could find it to be serious enough to initiate a traffic stop. As minor as that may seem, for many motorists in Tennessee, these stops could lead to DUI charges.

The stop itself, of course, doesn't lead to drunk driving charges, but the results of field sobriety tests and breathalyzer tests can. One of the most common field sobriety tests utilized by the police is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Here, a police officer holds a small object about a foot away from a driver's nose, then moves the object from side-to-side. The driver is supposed to follow the object with his or her eyes without moving their head

There are a number of things an officer who is conducting this test will look for, any of which could be used as an indication of intoxication. For example, if the subject's eyes jerk while following the object, then he or she may be deemed intoxicated. Likewise, according to police, intoxication may be indicated if the subject's eyes jerk within four seconds upon looking to the farthest reach to the side. Before probable cause for an arrest is obtained, though, a number of these red flags must be present.

Although prosecutors love to rely on field sobriety tests when putting on their case against an alleged drunk driver, the truth of the matter is that these tests are flawed. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, for instance, has been found to only be accurate in 77 percent of cases. Those who have certain medical condition, particularly those related to the eyes, may be subjected to a false arrest for failing this test.

Thus, those facing criminal charges related to drunk driving need to consider discussing their case with a criminal defense attorney. They may be able to help them challenge the prosecution's evidence and, hopefully, avoid the harsh penalties that otherwise could befall them.

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