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How Accurate is the HGN Test in Virginia?

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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. 

Category: General

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