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What Is The Officer Looking For In The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test?


The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is conducted in order to check for a physiological reaction that a person’s eyes have when they are under the influence of alcohol. We refer to this test as voodoo because 11% of the population will exhibit nystagmus regardless of any alcohol consumption. During the test, an officer will hold an object in front of the suspect and ask them to stare straight ahead. They are then going to move the object from side to side within the person’s field of peripheral vision, as well as towards and away from the person’s nose. They will request that the person follow the object with their eyes without moving their head. If the person’s eyes shake while they are following the object, then the officer will say that the person exhibits nystagmus due to alcohol intoxication.

The officer is supposed to move the object at a 45 degree angle from the person’s nose, but they do not measure the angle exactly, so they are really just estimating the angle. This is another reason that we view the test as nonsense. Case law dictates that the horizontal gaze nystagmus test can be considered, but it is not something that is given a lot of credence in and of itself.

What Is The Officer Looking For In The Walk And Turn Test?

As part of the walk-and-turn test, an officer will ask the suspect to stand as if they are on a tight rope with their hands to their sides, and to walk heel-to-toe while taking nine steps forward. The directions that an officer gives seem to set up the person for failure; who can imitate walking heel-to-toe on a tightrope without raising their hands at any point? People are going to move or raise their hands at least a little bit because it is just not a comfortable situation to be in. If a person is wearing heels or cowboy boots, then their ability to complete this test without error will be further complicated. It does not help that the officer will be breathing down the suspect’s neck and watching their every move. The officer will use any mistake that the person makes as evidence of the person’s intoxication.

The officer will be looking for a number of things, including whether or not the person touches heel-to-toe completely or steps off of the line. If the line is merely imaginary, then this determination will be made based on the officer’s subjective opinion. People commonly mess up during the part of the test where they are required to turn around. The person is not allowed to pivot on their heel or just flip around; they are supposed to take four or five little baby-steps and then turn around. No one is used to spinning around in exactly that manner.

These days, many squad cars are equipped with cameras. This is very beneficial because it allows us to see for ourselves what happened, rather than rely on an officer’s subjective determination. It eliminates an officer’s ability to embellish a person’s mistakes, which are referred to as clues. This is important, because there are so many clues that an officer can claim he or she observed. If an officer claims that a person gave more than two clues, then it will be determined that the person failed the test.

For more information on Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test In Illinois, a free initial consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (847) 244-4636 today.

Barry Boches, Esq.

Get your questions answered - call me for your free phone consultation (847) 244-4636.

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