Attorney Evan Chadwick recently completed a four day course that resulted in his certification as a field sobriety practitioner. Using the same curriculum that trains all police officers, Attorney Chadwick passed both the practical and written test to earn his certification.
“The training I received is vital to my practice of Vermont DUI defense” stated Chadwick. “By receiving the exact training law enforcement officers receive I am now able to better understand the nuances of the application of the field sobriety tests that may cause their application on the roadside to be questioned.”
Attorney Chadwick anticipates furthering his education in the near future, as he has been invited to attend the field sobriety instructor training this winter, which will allow him to apply for field instructor certification. “Educating myself on the many facets of Vermont DUI defense has always been my long term goal” stated Chadwick. “The more I understand the DUI investigation and where mistakes can be made, the better I can serve my clients in ensuring they receive the best defense possible”.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus or HGN is a key tool in law enforcement’s arsenal to investigate an alleged DUI.
Defined as the “involuntary jerking of the eyes that occurs when eyes gaze to the side” the HGN has been validated as one of the most reliable indicators of driver impairment when compared with all the other field sobriety and investigative tests officers employ while on the roadside.
If HGN is conducted correctly a 2013 San Diego validation study has found that it can be 88% accurate in detecting that a motorists BAC is above .08. The findings in an HGN test alone can give an officer the probable cause they need to arrest a motorist and bring them back to the barracks where an evidentiary breath test is taken.
As is the case with all field sobriety tests however, the key determination in the HGN is if the test was in fact administered properly according to National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards.
As a certified HGN practitioner who has gone through the certification process of administering the HGN, I can say with conviction that the NHTSA requirements are difficult to administer correctly in a controlled classroom environment, let alone in the wide variety of environmental conditions that an officer would face when conducting an HGN test on the roadside.
Timing, position of the stimulus (object motorist is to follow with eyes), medical conditions (such as head injuries) and the surrounding environment are but a few of the many factors that can play a role in the accuracy of the HGN. If any of these are comprised by failing to follow NHTSA guidelines, the entire test and, in turn a significant portion of the DUI investigation can be compromised, leaving serious doubt as to whether the officer has the evidence necessary to charge a motorist with DUI.