Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Field Sobriety Test

Did you fail a when given Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus field sobriety test even though you had not been drinking?

Failed Sobriety Test LawyersA Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is one of three main field sobriety tests Massachusetts law enforcement use as a means to detect or measure any impairments a driver may have due to drinking or taking drugs.

There are many reasons why people fail the “Gaze” field sobriety test. Medical conditions, visual distractions, or the officer conducting the test did not administer it properly. These things can cause you to appear impaired even when you have not been drinking.

If you failed any type of field sobriety test for any reason we can help. For a free consultation contact a Brockton, MA drunk driving offense defense lawyer with a track record of success you can count on.

Nystagmus is an involuntary, unconscious jerking of the eyeball. Horizontal gaze nystagmus refers to the bouncing of the eyes as they gaze to either side.

How the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test is Given

A driver is asked to remove his/her glasses—police can’t administer test if suspect is wearing contacts—and look directly at a pen the officer holds twelve inches from the driver’s eyes. The officer will then move the pen slowly to one side and then back to the other side without stopping.

There are two signs of intoxication the officer will be looking for:

  • The suspect either can’t follow/track the pen as the officer moves it from side to side or the eyes jerk as they move left and right while following the pen.
  • The eyeballs jerk when the pen is as far to the sides as possible.

Inaccurate Test Results

The roadside conditions usually provide enough distractions to invalidate the test results: poor lighting conditions, headlights from passing cars, flashing police lights. In addition, officers frequently fail to administer the test properly. Some hold the pen too close/far from the suspect’s eyes or shine the light directly into the suspect’s eyes in order to see them better. Some officers even stop the movement of the pen during the test which causes the very eye jerk/bounce equated with intoxication. Anyone of these factors invalidates the test.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus is a neuro-ophthalmological test. Several factors besides alcohol influence the test. Police officers don’t have the scientific background to understand or explain the other factors that influence the test. Certain medications, the time of day and temperature can affect the results of the test.  People who have diabetes or other medical problems that can cause high or low blood sugar may also have difficulties passing this test; not because they are impaired, but because of their medical condition.

As a result Commonwealth v. Sands, 424 Mass. 184 (1997) requires the state to get an expert to establish that the underlying scientific proposition of the test is reliable. If the officer uses this test a good attorney will file a motion exclude the test and the police officers opinion of the test.

Failed Field Sobriety Test Lawyers

We can help. For a free consultation contact a Boston area OUI/DWI lawyer with a track record of success you can count on. We look at all the facts of your case. If you failed a horizontal gaze nystagmus test or other field sobriety test, whether or not you had not been drinking, we can develop a strong defense on your behalf.

More Information About Drunk Driving and Field Sobriety Tests in Massachusetts

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