The HGN is a Standardized Field Sobriety Test
American Optometric Association has endorsed the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test in DUI, DWI, OWI, and Drunk Driving Cases.
What is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test?
The American Optometric Association (“AOA”) has adopted a Resolution to recognize the validity and reliability of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test as a component of a Standard Field Sobriety Test when administered by properly trained and certified police officers and when used in combination with other evidence. In DUI/OWI/DWI cases, there are only three standardized field sobriety tests (SFT): the walk-and-turn, the one-leg stand, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test. The HGN is the test everyone has seen, at least on television, where the officer uses a pen, flashlight, or another object to pass back and forth in front of the suspect’s eyes. He instructs the suspect not to move their head and follow the object with their eyes alone. Essentially the officer is looking for whether the eyes follow along smoothly, bounce up and down before 45 degrees, and have distinct, sustained bouncing at their maximum deviation. The bouncing is called Nystagmus.
The text of the Resolution is below. Questions or comments can be addressed to the American Optometric Association, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141.
AOA HOD RESOLUTION 1901 HORIZONTAL GAZE NYSTAGMUS AS A FIELD SOBRIETY TEST WHEREAS, drivers under the influence of alcohol pose a significant threat to the public health, safety, and welfare; and WHEREAS, optometric scientists and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have shown the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test to be a scientifically valid and reliable tool for trained police officers to use in field sobriety testing; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, that the American Optometric Association acknowledges the scientific validity and reliability of the HGN test as a field sobriety test when administered by properly trained and certified police officers and when used in combination with other evidence; and be it further RESOLVED, that the American Optometric Association supports doctors of optometry as professional consultants in the use of HGN field sobriety testing.
Is the HGN Test Reliable?
The Horizontal Nystagmus Test (HGN) is a standardized field sobriety test (FST) that police officers often administer during an OWI investigation to determine whether there is probable cause to believe a suspect is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the HGN Test is 77% reliable in determining whether a driver has a blood alcohol concentration above .10 (the maximum bodily alcohol content in Michigan is .08). Law enforcement officers, on the other hand, have a reputation for misusing the exam. This typically results from inadequate training, poor instruction, and disregard for the right processes and procedures. An experienced OWI defense attorney can examine how the HGN test was administered and determine if there is an avenue of attacking the evidence or legal basis of the arrest.
Defense Attorneys Can Attack the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has decades of experience successfully defending clients charged with OWI and DUI cases. We have successfully defended thousands of clients on alcohol and drug-related charges in courts throughout Michigan. Our OWI defense attorneys use a unique and highly effective team approach to maximize our client’s chances of getting charges thrown out of court, obtaining the most favorable plea bargains, fighting charges at trial, and seeking non-jail sentences. If you face felony or misdemeanor drunk or drugged driving charges, we can help you.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.