Bergen County attorney (divorce, family, criminal, employment), Eric Aretsky, describes the HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) roadside exercise, used by police investigating possible DUIs this way:
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If HGN was performed during your stop, a good attorney will examine the results of this exercise, and whether it was administered correctly, as one of a number of factors building your case against a DUI.
The HGN is a an exercise an officer will perform when a driver is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol. The officer will ask the person suspected of intoxicated driving to follow a moving point with their eyes.
The HGN attempts to detect any lateral jerking in the individual's eyes when they move to the side, indicating possible intoxication. Alcohol impairs the ability of the brain to accurately control eye muscles, associated with jerky eye movements in the HGN exercise.
According to the NHTSA, the HGN Test should be administered in a well-lit location away from the lights of traffic, and police car flashers.
The HGN test uses an object, which the subject is instructed to follow with their eyes, without moving their head. Most commonly, the tip of a penlight is the object used. The officer holds the object 12-15 inches from the subject's face, slightly above eye level. The officer records observations from this and other field sobriety tests in their report, which is used if the individual is charged with a DUI.