Tag: horizontal gaze nystagmus

Lack Of Training Dooms HGN Test

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HGN testAccording to their own manual, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (hereinafter HGN Test) is the most reliable of the three standardized field sobriety tests.  The police are trained that it is 77% accurate at detecting subjects at or above a .10% blood alcohol concentration.  But that is not the whole story.

Officers are not told that everyone (EVERYONE) has nystagmus. The presence of alcohol merely enhances or magnifies this natural effect.

Officer are told that there are 40 different kinds of nystagmus, but that is somehow not important to their training. The fact that everyone has it and there are numerous non-impairing causes of nystagmus is deemed irrelevant in the decision to arrest someone.  Worse yet, the police officers are given no (NO!) guidance in how to distinguish between the different kinds of nystagmus and no training about what questions to ask that would help them distinguish between an impairment or a natural event.  They simply don’t care! If they see it, they will use it against you.

It is common for the officer to present evidence obtained during an HGN test at an OVI motion to suppress to support their decision to arrest.  That is why it is vital to hire an OVI attorney with the training and experience to fight for you.

Don’t let a faulty HGN test take away your freedom!

What Is A Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test?

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What is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test?

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus TestAlcohol is a central nervous system depressant affecting many of the higher as well as lower motor control systems of the body. This results in poor motor coordination, sluggish reflexes, and emotional instability. The part of the nervous system that fine-tunes and controls hand movements and body posture also controls eye movements. When intoxicated, a person’s nervous system will display a breakdown in the smooth and accurate control of eye movements. This breakdown in the smooth control of eye movement may result in the inability to hold the eyes steady, resulting in a number of observable changes of impaired oculomotor functioning. See, Jack E. Richman & John Jakobowski, The Competency and Accuracy of Police Academy Recruits in the Use of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test for Detecting Alcohol Impairment, 47 New Eng. J. Optometry 5, 6 (Winter 1994). [Ed. Note, The citations and quotes in this DaytonDUI blog article were taken from HERE, HORIZONTAL GAZE NYSTAGMUS: THE SCIENCE & THE LAW, A Resource Guide for Judges, Prosecutors and Law Enforcement (no authorship or suggested citation given).

“Nystagmus” is a term used to describe a “bouncing” eye motion that is displayed in two ways: (1) pendular nystagmus, where the eye oscillates equally in two directions, and (2) jerk nystagmus, where the eye moves slowly away from a fixation point and then is rapidly corrected through a “saccadic” or fast movement. Raymond D. Adams & Maurice Victor, Principles of Neurology, ch.13, “Disorders of Ocular Movement and Pupillary Function,” 117 (4th ed. 1991).  HGN is a type of jerk nystagmus with the saccadic movement toward the direction of the gaze. An eye normally moves smoothly like a marble rolling over a glass plane, whereas an eye with jerk nystagmus moves like a marble rolling across sandpaper. Most types of nystagmus, including HGN, are involuntary motions, meaning the person exhibiting the nystagmus cannot control it. C.J. Forkiotis, Optometric Exercise: The Scientific Basis for Alcohol Gaze Nystagmus, 59 Curriculum II, No. 7 at 9 (April 1987); Gregory W. Good & Arol R. Augsburger, Use of Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus as a Part of Roadside Sobriety Testing, 63 Am. J. of Optometry & Physiological Optics 467, 469 (1986).  In fact, the subject exhibiting the nystagmus is unaware that it is happening because the bouncing of the eye does not affect the subject’s vision.

Alcohol causes two types: alcohol gaze nystagmus, which includes HGN, and positional alcohol nystagmus. Although alcohol causes both, alcohol gaze nystagmus and positional alcohol nystagmus are very different and easily distinguishable. Testing for positional alcohol nystagmus is not a part of the standardized field sobriety test battery. Defendants sometimes claim or attempt to confuse matters by arguing that the nystagmus the officer saw was actually positional alcohol nystagmus and not alcohol gaze nystagmus.

When an officer asks you to follow his pen, he is performing the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.  Nystagmus is defined as the oscillation of the eyeball that occurs when there is a disturbance of the vestibular system or the oculomotor control of the eye.  The nystagmus the officer is looking for is an involuntary motion.  A person is usually unaware of the presence of a nystagmus and cannot control it. Forkiotis, C.J. Optometric Exercise: The Scientific Basis for Alcohol Gaze Nystagmus. 59 Curriculum II, No. 7 at 9 (April 1987); Good, Gregory W.  & Augsburger, Arol R. Use of Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus as a Part of Roadside Sobriety Testing. 63 Am. J. of Optometry & Physiological Optics 467, 469 (1986); Stapleton, June M. et al. Effects of Alcohol and Other Psychotropic Drugs on Eye Movements: Relevance to Traffic Safety. 47 Q.J. Stud. on Alcohol 426, 430 (1986).  The officer is looking for a type of nystagmus wherein the eye moves slowly in one direction and then returns rapidly, sometimes referred to as a jerk or jerking nystagmus. Adams, Raymond D. & Victor, Maurice. Disorders of Ocular Movement and Pupillary Function.  Principles of Neurology.  Ch.13, 117 (4th ed. 1991).

A major weakness in relying on the horizontal gaze nystagmus test in the criminal justice arena is that there are multiple causes of nystagmus that have been observed.  Syndromes such as influenza, vertigo, epilepsy, measles, syphilis, arteriosclerosis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Korsakoff’s Syndrome, brain hemorrhage, streptococcus infections, and other psychogenic disorders all have been shown to produce nystagmus. Additionally, conditions such as hypertension, motion sickness, sunstroke, eyestrain, eye muscle fatigue, glaucoma, and changes in atmospheric pressure may result in gaze nystagmus. Pangman. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Voodoo Science. 2 DWI J. 1, 3-4 (1987).  Caffeine, nicotine and aspirin (alone or in combination with alcohol) can also lead to a nystagmus which mimics a nystagmus attributable to alcohol consumption. Id. at 3-4.  Scientific literature also points to a person’s circadian rhythms or biorhythms as having an affect on nystagmus readings as the body reacts differently to alcohol at different times in the day and even fatigue nystagmus can be found in an individual, and the list, according to critics, goes on.   Id. at 3-4; Booker, J.L.  End-position nystagmus as an indicator of ethanol intoxication. Sci Justice.  41(2):113-116. (April – June, 2001).

The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is not present in marijuana impairment cases. In State v. Dixon, 2007-Ohio-5189 (Ohio Ct. App. 12th Dist. Clermont County 2007), the court addressed the issue of standardized field sobriety tests and marijuana impairment.  Relying upon the NHTSA standards, the court concluded that observations as to performance on the walk & turn test and the one-leg stand test were indicative of impairment, thus allowing those to be used against a suspected marijuana user.  The HGN test, however, is not indicative of marijuana impairment.  According to NHTSA nystagmus would not be present due to marijuana and, as such, it was plain error to admit evidence of the horizontal gaze nystagmus test against the defendant accused of marijuana impairment.

Ohio Revised Code 4511.19(D)(4)(b) sets forth the standards for admissibility of the results of field sobriety tests in OVI (drunk driving) prosecutions.  See State v. Bozcar, 113 Ohio St. 3d 148, 2007-Ohio-1251, 863 N.E.2d 115 (2007).  In order for the tests to be admissible, the State must demonstrate:

  1. By clear and convincing evidence.
  2. The Officer administered the tests insubstantial compliance.
  3. The testing standards for any reliable, credible, and generally accepted test.
  4. Including, but not limited to, the standards set by NHTSA.

The only guidance provided for determining the meaning of “substantial compliance” has come from State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St. 3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372 (2003), wherein the court indicated that errors that are clearly “de minimus” or “minor procedural deviations” are not substantial.  Thus, the State must set forth the testing standards, offer some testimony that the testing standards have been accepted and that the officer has substantially complied.  If the State fails to introduce testimonial or documentary evidence of the standards (most likely via the NHTSA training manual), then they have not met this burden. See Village of Gates Mills v. Mace, 2005-Ohio-2191 (Ohio Ct. App. 8th Dist., Cuyahoga County), wherein the State did not meet this burden despite the Court having its own copy of the manual.

In my practice we have seen a trend to manipulating the “substantial compliance” standard into a de facto prejudice standard.  The burden is being subtly shifted to the defendant to demonstrate that he or she was somehow prejudiced by the officer’s failure to comply with the NHTSA standards.  For example; if the officer does not articulate that he advised the suspect not to raise his or her arms, the Court says that he substantially complied by merely mentioning that he was trained in NHTSA protocols.  If, however, the defense points out that the officer did not give the proper instruction and still scored the test in a way negative to the defendant, the court may consider excluding some portion or all of the test.  Case law can be helpful on this point.

In State v. Clay, 34 Ohio St. 2d 250, 298 N.E.2d 137 (1973) the court ruled, “[h]owever, if by cross examination or otherwise, the defense places such compliance at issue, it then is incumbent upon the State, in order to maintain its burden of proof, to offer the methods and regulations into evidence and prove compliance.”  Some courts may try to take Judicial Notice of the manual (See Evid. R 201) when no manual was introduced.  In State v. Wells 2005-Ohio-5008 (Ohio Ct. App. 2d Dist., Montgomery County) held that the court cannot assume judicial notice when the record does not demonstrate a request for judicial notice or a reference to the manual by the trial court.  The 9th District Court of Appeals issued a great decision on the issue of substantial compliance.  Specifically, the issue involved giving the HGN test while the Defendant was seated in the car.  The Court found that this was not substantial compliance. (State v. Haneberg 5/29/2007, 2007-Ohio-2561, 9th District Court of Appeals).

The validity of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests results is dependent upon law enforcement practitioners following the established, standardized procedures for test administration and scoring. NHTSA’s SFST Student Manual states that the procedures demonstrated in the training program describe how SFSTs should be administered under ideal conditions, but that ideal conditions do not always exist in the field. Variations from ideal conditions, and deviations from the standardized procedures, might affect the evidentiary weight that should be given to test results.

Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio.  He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671.  You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500.  Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog “All I do is DUI defense.”

For more information on the horizontal gaze nystagmus test check these city-specific sites at the following links:

FairbornDaytonSpringfieldKetteringVandalia, Xenia, XeniaMiamisburg,  Huber HeightsOakwoodBeavercreekCenterville

 

 

 

There’s A New Standardized Field Sobriety Tests “Guide”

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standardized field sobriety testsStandardized Field Sobriety Tests are commonly known as the roadside activities that police officers ask drivers to perform if the officer suspects that the driver is impaired by alcohol or another impairing substance. We call them “stupid human tricks.”  Contrary to popular understanding and belief, many of these tests have little basis in science, and the ones that do are frequently performed incorrectly.

NHTSA has developed a new “GUIDE” in assessing Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.  The new (March, 2013) version focuses more on having law enforcement recognize and administer tests to determine impaired driving by substances other than alcohol.  No new scientific studies regarding the scientific validity of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are given and no improvements to the process are undertaken. This is the latest in many revisions to the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Manuals (1987, 1992, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 (R2/06 and R8/06 R2/06/09).

Instead of improving the tests, the author’s have decided to take out one of the basic factual components of the entire Standardized Field Sobriety Test scheme – the preface.  Yep, that’s right; the preface has been targeted for change.  Recall the following preface to the most recent NHTSA manual.

The procedures outlined in this manual describe how the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are to be administered under ideal conditions. We recognize that the SFSTs will not always be administered under ideal conditions in the field, because such conditions will not always exist. Even when administered under less than ideal conditions, they will generally serve as valid and useful indicators of impairment. Slight variations from the ideal, i.e., the inability to find a perfectly smooth surface at roadside, may have some affect on the evidentiary weight given to the results. However, this does not necessarily make the SFSTs invalid.

Why target the preface?  It is this author’s opinion that the preface was being used by DUI defense attorneys to place the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in proper context before the jury in DUI prosecutions.  Just like other areas, the government would rather hide behind words rather than give attorneys defending citizens’ freedom something that has proven to aid jurors in laying bear the problems with these tests. Now more than ever, it is important to have an attorney who understands what they are doing and why they are doing it.  Sadly, many attorneys will never know of the change and more innocent people will be convicted based on pseudo-scientific stupid human tricks.

Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio.  He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671.  You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500.  Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog.  You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.  “All I do is DUI defense.”

 Find information on standardized field sobriety tests and other city-specific info at the following links:

FairbornDaytonSpringfieldKetteringVandaliaXeniaMiamisburgSpringboro,Huber HeightsOakwoodBeavercreekCenterville

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests: They Don’t Work

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standardized field sobriety testsThe National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration’s standardized field sobriety tests were developed based on a 1977 study. The subjects of this study had blood alcohol content levels ranging from zero to .15 percent. Though there was such a large different between the test subjects, there was a 47 percent error rate in determining a person’s impairment after administering the standardized field sobriety tests. 47%! This means that almost half of the people were misidentified by police officers as being drunk when in fact they were not. What is worse, one of the researchers agreed that the tests are problematic because there is no correlation between a person’s ability to perform a”stupid human trick” like the standardized field sobriety tests battery: One Leg Stand, Walk & Turn, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test and a person’s ability to operate a vehicle.  Despite the scientific flaws with the standardized field sobriety tests, they are used throughout Ohio to establish probable cause for an arrest.

You are also subjected to a great variance in the officer’s understanding of the tests and his or her ability to competently administer the standardized field sobriety tests.  Some officers have not been trained in the administration of the standardized field sobriety tests, some have not been updated since they took the course at the police academy and others simply do not know how to administer standardized field sobriety tests in a manner that would make them indicative of impairment.  In the hands of a well-trained professional, these tests can act as a rudimentary screen for impairment.  In other hands they can give a false veneer of science to a bad arrest.

You and your DUI defense attorney also have to take into account the typical DUI investigation.  Standardized field sobriety tests are divided attention tests, meaning that if there is a problem that is affecting the driver’s ability to concentrate, it will also affect how he or she performs on the test. What could affect a person’s concentration more than the flashing lights of a police car in the middle of the night while attempting to walk in a straight line.  This does not even take into account that some people cannot and should not be screened by standardized field sobriety tests because they would find these tests difficult to pass even under ideal conditions.  Police officers are not scientists.  As such we see scientific gains stymied by human error or incompetence when it comes to the administration of standardized field sobriety tests.  It is vital that your DUI defense attorney understand and implement the latest science in your defense.

Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio.  He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671.  You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500.  Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog.  You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.  “All I do is DUI defense.”

 Find information on standardized field sobriety tests and other city-specific info at the following links:

FairbornDaytonSpringfieldKetteringVandaliaXeniaMiamisburgSpringboro,Huber HeightsOakwoodBeavercreekCenterville

Unintended Consequences of an Ohio DUI Charge

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A drunk driving charge can affect you in ways that you may not expect. Listed below are some of the more vexing issues associated with an Ohio DUI (OVI) charge.

1. Child Custody – If you are involved in a custody dispute, or have a vindictive spouse who would like to start one, a DUI/OVI conviction can be used against you in domestic relations court.  Automatic suspensions may make it difficult to exercise visitation with your children.  You may also find a court who will refuse to let you transport the children due to a DUI/OVI conviction, thereby increasing the cost or difficulty in seeing your kids.  Visit www.OhioDivorceAttorney.com for issues involving child custody. MADD has advocated putting a provision in every divorce decree calling for immediate suspension of parental rights if the parent if found to be driving while intoxicated.

2. Adoption – Some investigating agencies will use a DUI/OVI conviction against a party seeking to adopt children.

3. Car Insurance – Some companies will drop you if you have a drunk driving conviction and others may deny claims.  Others raise rates dramatically and still other companies force you to buy “high risk” insurance.  You can expect higher costs and less coverage for your dollar.

4. Employment – Given the societal stigma of a DUI/OVI, many companies will terminate an employee who is charged or convicted of an OVI.  Particularly vulnerable employees include those who drive company cars, those who drive between states for their jobs, those who are covered by fleet insurance and those who have management jobs.  In this tough job market you want to check your employment handbook for any reporting obligations a DUI/OVI require.  You have to decide if the employer needs to know, or, if they will be placated by telling them that you are aggressively fighting your charge.

5. Professional Licenses – Are you a doctor, lawyer, nurse, daycare worker, cosmetologist, private security, barber or any other many other workers required by your state to hold a professional license?  Do you hold a security clearance?  Holders of a professional license may face a range of sanctions for a DUI/OVI conviction, including mandatory alcohol counseling, fines, probationary discipline, license review, denial of a license or revocation of an existing license.  Obviously, you should fight your DUI/OVI charge with vigor to avoid these devastating results.

6. Civil Lawsuits – If you are involved in a drunk driving accident you become a target for victims of personal or property damage.  Many times the societal approbation against drunk driving will motivate someone to seek revenge to assure that you are punished for your negligent and reckless behavior.

7. Pilot’s License – Those holding an FAA Airman’s Certificate are subject to reporting and disclosure requirements.  A DUI is a “motor vehicle action” pursuant to section 61.15 of the FAA Aviation Regulations.

8. Military Induction – The ramifications of a DUI/OVI may prevent or delay induction into the military.  Recruiters are loathe to interfere with an order of any court.

9. Educational (College) Problems – Many colleges, depending on the facts of the case and whether or not the DUI was on school property, will haul you before a disciplinary committee when you are convicted (in some cases charged) with a DUI/OVI offense.  These sanctions are further complicated if you are applying to a college or university.

10. Travel – Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act may prevent entry into Canada following an OVI conviction. [see previous articles on this topic]  You may also face travel restrictions if you engage in travel to sensitive places.

11. Immigration Issues – DUI/OVI is not a crime of violence but may still carry immigration issues.  Make sure your attorney can get advise from a competent immigration attorney.

12. Commercial Drivers – See the numerous articles I have written on the plight of professional drivers who face the loss of their careers even when driving a non-commercial vehicle on their own time.

13. Teachers and Education Majors – First the good news, usually an OVI arrest will usually not result in disciplinary action – BUT IT CAN!  In Ohio, a Teacher, Principal, or School Administrator, who is licensed by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), may face Disciplinary Action for being arrested for DUI.  The circumstances surrounding the arrest may garner publicity if you are a well-known or long-tenured educator.  The internal politics of your school may cause a fellow teacher, a school board member or a member of the public to contact the Ohio Department of Education to trigger an investigation.  If an investigation is initiated, the Ohio Department of Education will not wait for an outcome, but will proceed to impose discipline independent of the outcome of your case.  Factors that may affect your DOE investigation may include whether the offense is a repeat offense, whether the offense involves illegal drugs and/or whether the case results in a conviction.   While there are no hard and fast rules, the more mitigation you are prepared to present to the DOE, the better the chance to avoid discipline and keep your job.

14. Enhancement – A DUI/OVI in Ohio is never expungeable and will follow you for 6 years for enhancement purposes.  This means that if you are convicted of a second OVI within 6 years you will face harsh enhanced penalties.  A DUI/OVI will also require you to submit to a chemical test (no-refusals) for 20 years following a conviction.

Given all the above, many times the most difficult aspect of a DUI/OVI is telling those people you love you have been charged.  The National Highway Transportation Administration, MADD, The Century Council, schools and colleges all spend millions of dollars on educational programs and television commercials stigmatizing the act of drunk driving.  DUI clients are perceived as guilty without a presumption of innocence afforded to most defendants.  Furthermore, it causes stress and financial concerns in families that can cause minor fissures to become major cracks.  If you find yourself charged with a DUI/OVI please contact a competent criminal defense attorney who can protect you from this many-tentacled beast.  Charles M. Rowland II has dedicated his practice to representing the accused drunk driver.  Contact him immediately at 937-879-9542 or 1-888-ROWLAND