Maryland Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

If you are ever pulled over in the state of Maryland because an officer suspects you of driving under the influence, you will likely be asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests. While they may seem somewhat silly, these tests are given in order to help law enforcement officers figure out a driver’s level of impairment. There are three standardized tests that have been approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and one of them is the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. The results of this test can determine whether or not the police officer decides to place you under arrest for impaired driving. If you are charged, you could be facing extremely harsh penalties including jail time, fines, and the loss of your license. If you are asked to take the Maryland horizontal gaze nystagmus test and you are arrested for DUI, an experienced Maryland DUI defense attorney can help protect your rights and give you the best possible chance for a successful outcome in your case.

Taking the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eye that occurs when the eyes look to the side at a certain angle. Nystagmus becomes more exaggerated if a person has consumed alcohol and is not something that you can control. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is also referred to as a DUI pen test, involves the officer holding a stimulus, such as a flashlight or a pen, about 12 to 15 inches away from your face and moving it from side to side while you follow it with your eyes. The officer watches your eyes as they move and tries to detect nystagmus. There are three clues that an officer will look for during the horizontal gaze nystagmus test:

  • If your eyes are not able to follow the object smoothly;
  • If the jerking becomes very distinct at that maximum deviation; and
  • If the onset of the jerking occurs within 45 degrees of center.

If the officer notices at least four clues between both eyes, they may take that as a sign of the presence of alcohol in your system and place you under arrest for DUI.

Defending HGN Test Results

Even though the HGN test was developed based on science, it is still prone to error. If the test is not administered properly, then the results may be completely unreliable, which means that you may fail the test even in situations where you are not actually impaired. If the police officer does not follow specific procedures while administering the test, the entire test can be challenged in a court of law. There are also a number of factors besides alcohol that may cause a driver to show signs of nystagmus. Medical conditions, head injuries, vision disorders, as well as certain types of medication can all trigger abnormal eye activity in the HGN test. If the defendant can show documentation or medical records to prove that they have a condition that impacts their ability to perform the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, it can greatly improve their chances of successfully defending their case.

DUI Consequences in Maryland

Even first time offenders of DUI and DWI in Maryland face extremely serious consequences. A conviction could carry penalties including a jail sentence, hefty fines, as well as the loss of your driving privileges. Having a conviction on your record can also make it difficult for you to obtain certain employment opportunities, educational options, and even a financial loan. An experienced criminal defense attorney who has worked with DUI cases would be best-suited to help you find ways to challenge the results of the field sobriety test and fight your charges.

An Attorney Will Fight for Your Rights

It is important to remember that just because you are charged with a DUI, it does not necessarily mean that you will be found guilty when the case is presented in court. In order to avoid the life-altering affects and consequences of a drunk driving-related conviction, you would be best-served to consult with a passionate DUI lawyer.