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 From an emotional standpoint, a case where someone is accused driving under the influence and killing another person is one of the toughest.  With the victim, you usually have someone who did not deserve to die.  They are often young, in the prime of their lives.  They are usually also close to the driver.  The victim is often a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or sibling of the accused.  Unfortunately, that person is not available to express forgiveness to the driver.
As for the driver, you often have a person who has never been in trouble in his life.  He may be college educated, have a great job, and a loving family.  But for this horrible incident he would have continued to be an upstanding citizen.
Recently, a San Jose woman pled guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter after hitting and killing a 79 year old grandmother.  She is waiting to be sentenced by a Santa Clara County judge.  Her maximum possible sentence is 12 years in the state prison.  In fact, the judge is precluded from granting this woman probation unless he finds “unusual circumstances” where the interests of justice require it.  According to statements, the family of the victim has forgiven the defendant, and believes that the victim would forgive her as well.  Unfortunately, California DUI sentencing law provides somewhat less opportunity for the Court to forgive her. 

As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that, regardless of the outcome, nobody wins in these cases.  Regardless of what side you are on there is nothing but tragedy in these cases.  An innocent victim loses her life, and a contrite survivor is cast into the hell of the California prison system.  

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If you are pulled over for a suspected DUI in Virginia, there is a good chance that you will have to do a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, as part of a series of field sobriety tests.  Police officers use the HGN test in Virginia to help determine if you are intoxicated.  Even though scientists believe the HGN test is reliable, there are my factors that can alter the results.

Nystagmus is defined as an involuntary movement of the eyeball that occurs when there is a disturbance of the inner ear system or the oculomotor of the eye.  Consuming alcohol is supposed to hinder the ability of the brain to control the eye muscles, which is where the HGN test comes in to play.  The more alcohol that is consumed, the great amount of involuntary movement of the eyeball. 

During the HGN test, a police officer will be looking for movement in the eye when you look to the side.   The officer will most likely ask you to follow an object with your eyes, such as a pen or penlight.  Generally, the object is held about 12 to 15 inches from your face and at a slightly higher eye level.  It is important that the police officer is able to clearly see your eyes, if not, the results could be wrong.

There are many causes of nystagmus, besides alcohol consumption.  Neural or muscle activity, brain damage, eye strain, brain tumors, inner ear diseases and other health problems can all result in nystagmus.  If a police officer is not properly trained in administering the HGN test, the results could be skewed. 

If you have been arrested for a Virginia DUI charge, it is crucial that you contact and an experienced DUI attorney who can review the details of your HGN test and other field sobriety tests. 

The article, “The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test Used in DUI Arrests,” has more information on this topic. 

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