Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
It is said that everyone has nystagmus, which is the unknown involuntary jerking of the eye. There are around 84 causes of nystagmus, caused by disabilities, illness, outside causes and other factors. We have it, but don’t know it. Usually, it is so slight that others don’t notice it, either. Usually, it is lateral (side to side), but can be vertical. Alcohol and drugs will make it more pronounced.
The SFST procedure to detect it is to wave an object in front of the eyes in a certain manner. There is a proper way to do this:
An officer will hold what he calls a ‘stimulus’ (that should be a clue!) 12 to 15 inches, and slightly elevated, in front of your eyes. He makes a couple of fast sweeps (to get your eyes tired) to see if your eyes move (track) together. Then he will move it slowly (2 seconds) out to 45 degrees to the right and then back to center taking 2 seconds. Then he will move it to the left in the same manner. This is to check for smooth moving of your eyes.
There are two more horizontal steps included in the standardized test and one step for an optional (non-standardized) test. I’ll not detail those for the sake of time. Call me and we’ll go over it in detail for your knowledge.
An important thing to understand…this is an eye test created by NHTSA on their own. Optometrists and Ophthalmologists do not use this ‘test’ in their checking and diagnosis of your eyes! It is only for the officers to use in their subjective ‘tests’. In 26+ years of DWI Defense I have never seen a case where an officer has said the citizen ‘passed the test’. In fact, every time the officer has said the citizen had the maximum points for failure. After all, at trial the jury has to take his word for the absolute truth because the in-car video cannot see the eyes. For this reason I discount this test to the jury and have found, through experience, acceptable reasons for the jury to not believe this test.
The important SFST tests are the Walk-and-Turn and One-Leg-Stand which are covered it two other pages. They are the ones that matter. It is best to do them, if possible.
Call me if you have more questions about this ‘test’.