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What is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test?

Floridians who are suspected of drunk driving are usually subjected to a number of field sobriety tests. The results of these tests may dictate whether criminal charges for drunk driving are filed, and they can play a powerful part in a prosecutor’s case. Therefore, those who are accused of driving while intoxicated need to ensure they understand these field sobriety tests and how to fight back against them in a court of law.

One commonly used field sobriety test is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. This test looks for involuntary jerking of the eyes, also known as nystagmus, which is caused by intoxication. To conduct the test, a police officer will first observe a driver’s eyes at rest to see if nystagmus can be detected. If so, then the involuntary movements may be attributable to a medical condition rather than intoxication.

If there is no nystagmus at this point, then the officer will hold a finger or small object about a foot away from the driver’s nose and move it side-to-side in a slow and steady fashion with the expectation that the driver will follow with only his or her eyes. This means that the driver is expected to keep his or her head still. If a driver is unable to smoothly follow the object, his or her eyes jerk before reaching a 45 degree angle, or his or her hers jerk when looking all the way to the side, then an office may consider that an indication of intoxication.

The truth of the matter is that, while this test is often relied upon by officers and prosecutors to levy drunk driving charges, it is only accurate in about 75 percent of cases. This means that those who are accused of driving drunk may be able to put forth evidence challenging an officers conclusions about intoxication. To learn more about how to do this, Floridians can speak to a skilled criminal defense attorney.


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