If you’re suspected of driving while intoxicated, you may be asked to take one or more “field sobriety tests.” Police officers use these to determine whether or not they have enough reasonable suspicion to ask for a chemical breath test.
One of these is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. It sounds simple enough (you’re merely asked to look at a small object and then follow it with your eyes as it’s moved slowly around). The officer is trying to see if you can hold your gaze steady. If your eyes jump around on their own, you fail the test.
There are dozens of reasons you can fail this test
Field sobriety tests are so unreliable that they aren’t even admissible in court, nor are you legally required to submit to them. In particular, you’re likely to fail the horizontal gaze nystagmus test for all kinds of reasons:
- You were staring too long at your computer today and have eye fatigue
- You’re panicking a little because of the situation and all the cars rushing around
- You’re really tired, your blood sugar is low or you have a cold
- You have an inner-ear condition that affects your balance
- You have a sensory processing disorder like ADHD or autism
- You have any one of dozens of neurological disorders
- You’re very nearsighted and have a bad astigmatism
- You’re on a medication, like an anti-epileptic
What’s the takeaway here? If asked if you’re willing to take a field sobriety test, decline. Let the officer find a better way to justify the intrusion of a Breathalyzer test (if they can). You may just defeat a drunk driving charge before it ever gets started.