When a motorist is pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, or DUI, in Queens, the law enforcement officer conducting the stop typically asks the suspect to perform a number of tests to try and determine if the motorist is intoxicated. Collectively, these tests are referred to as "field sobriety tests", or FSTs. Though an officer can use any test he or she wishes to determine intoxication, most officers use the three "standardized" FSTs. These are considered standardized because they have been approved by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, or NHTSA. The three standardized tests include the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, and the HGN test. Of the three, the HGN test is the most confusing to most people because they do not understand what an officer is looking for when conducting the test. A brief explanation may help if you ever find yourself faced with the HGN test.
Most people have seen the HGN test performed on television on one of the seemingly endless law enforcement based reality shows. The HGN test is usually performed with a pen light or other similar instrument. The police officer asks the suspect to follow the instrument as it is moved from the center of the motorists face to one side and then back again. The subject is told to follow the instrument with his or her eyes only.
During the test, the officer is looking for "horizontal gaze nystagmus" which refers to a lateral or horizontal jerking when the eye gazes to the side. The way your system is wired, when alcohol or some central nervous system depressants enter your system it become harder and harder to control eye movement, hence the jerking and twitching when your eye tracks to the side. At about a 45 degree angle from your eye your peripheral vision is triggered. If the test subject's eyes show signs of HGN, it is considered to be a sign that the motorist has been drinking and/or is under the influence of a controlled substance.
If the HGN test is both conducted and evaluated properly it can be a good indication that a suspect has been drinking; however, the test is often not conducted correctly and the results are simply what the officer wants them to be. Moreover, a variety of medical conditions and test conditions can account for the "twitching" an officer observes during the test - all of which have nothing to do with the consumption of alcohol.
If you have specific questions regarding a Queens DUI, contact the criminal defense attorneys at SIMON & GILMAN, LLP.