When the police administer field sobriety tests, the first test that will be administered is the “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test. For this test, the officer will have you look at a stimulus (e.g., pen or finger) and follow it with your eyes. However, this is not an eye exam. The officer is not concerned about whether your eyes are fine. The officer is looking for distinct “clues” of impairment that will justify him placing you under arrest for DUI / OVI.
What are the DUI / OVI Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus “Clues” in Ohio?
The officer administering the horizontal gaze nystagmus test at the scene will not tell you what he is looking for. Thus, it can be easy to fall into the trap of complying with the officer’s request that you submit to the test so he can “check your eyes.” The officer is looking for 6 “clues,” 3 in each eye. The clues are:
- Inability to track the stimulus smoothly;
- Distinct and sustained nystagmus prior at maximum deviation; and
- Onset of nystagmus prior to 45°.
How is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test Administered?
The officer administering the horizontal gaze nystagmus test will begin by asking if you wear glasses or contacts. If you wear glasses, the officer will ask that you remove them. The officer will then give the following verbal instructions:
- Put your feet together, hands at your side
- Keep your head still
- Look at the stimulus
- Follow the stimulus with your eyes only
- Keep looking at the stimulus until told to stop
The officer will position the stimulus approximately 12 – 15 inches in front of your face and slightly above eye level. The officer will then determine if resting nystagmus is present, whether your pupils are of equal size and whether your eyes can track equally. This will be done by moving the stimulus from the center of your face, to the far right, to the far left, and back to the center.
After determining whether resting nystagmus is present, that your pupils are of equal size (indicates a possible head injury if they are not) and your eyes can track equally, the officer will begin observing whether the clues mentioned above are present.
If the eyes are observed to jerk while moving, the officer will note the “lack of smooth pursuit” and count one clue for each eye (or two clues total).
The officer will then check for “distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation.” This is done by observing whether your eyes jerk in a distinct and sustained manner while your eyes observe the stimulus being held at your far right and left. The officer will note a clue for each eye if this is present.
Finally, the officer will attempt to observe the “onset of nystagmus prior to 45°.” If the jerking in your eyes begin before the stimulus is at your far right and left, the officer will note a clue for each eye if present.
If the officer observes 4 out of a possible 6 clues, you will deemed to have failed the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The results of this test will be used against you at trial. Thus, it is never advisable to submit to this, or any, field sobriety test. Instead, call a DUI / OVI attorney and speak with them about your case. For more information about DUI / OVI in Ohio, read Johnson Legal, LLC’s DUI / OVI Blog.
DUI / OVI Attorney – Columbus and Delaware, Ohio
If you have been charged with DUI / OVI in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your DUI / OVI case.