Understanding the nystagmus field sobriety test

Summer is in full swing now and it is not uncommon for South Carolina residents to be invited to backyard barbeques or outings at a local lake to gather with friends and family. Beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages may well be served as these events. Anyone who drives home after having a casual drink with friends should be keenly aware of the types of tests officers may ask you to participate in if they suspect you may be intoxicated or impaired while driving.

FieldSobrietyTests.org indicates that one of the tests used is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and is said to be 77-percent accurate. The nystagmus is an involuntary jerking motion of the eye that is believed to be accentuated if you have consumed alcohol. An officer would hold an object a foot or so in front of your eyes and move it side to side. You would need to follow it with only moving your eyes, not your head.

Jerking that starts before a certain angle or at a certain timing relative to when your gaze is fully peripheral may be used to indicate potential impairment. So too could your eye's lack of ability to follow the object smoothly. There are medical, neurological and eye conditions that may contribute to your eye's natural jerking motion that have nothing to do with alcohol consumption at all.

If you would like to learn more about the horizonal gaze nystagmus test, please feel free to visit the eye and field sobriety test page of our South Carolina drunk driving and criminal defense website.

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