Did a North Carolina cop ask you to take an eye test?

Griffin Law, PLLC
Jan 19, 2021

If a North Carolina police officer makes a traffic stop, he or she might suspect the driver in question of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. A driver who notices flashing blue and red lights in his or her rearview mirror would be wise to safely and swiftly pull to the side of the road. From there, any number of issues may arise that have a significant impact on the ultimate outcome of the situation, including if the officer requests that the driver take a horizontal gaze nystagmus test.

Not only is the name of the test challenging to pronounce and spell, but it can also be difficult to perform well, especially for those who have existing eye conditions. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test is an eye test that police officers often use to determine if they have probable cause to make a suspected drunk driving arrest. It is critical that a person understand his or her rights before deciding whether or not to comply with a request to take this or any other field sobriety test.

Every person has a maximum peripheral vision point, and the human eye involuntarily makes a jerking motion if a person is tracking an object without moving his or her head and reaches the maximum peripheral vision point. Police officers who want to determine whether they have probable cause to make a drunk driving arrest use this test because an intoxicated person’s eyeballs tend to jerk erratically while tracking an object without moving his or her head before reaching the maximum peripheral vision point. A police officer can administer this by asking a driver to step out of his or her vehicle, then follow an object — such as the officer’s index finger or a pen — from left to right or vertically without moving his or her head.

If a North Carolina driver takes a horizontal gaze nystagmus test or another field sobriety test and fails, he or she may wind up in jail — at least, temporarily. Facing drunk driving charges can have immediate and long-term adverse consequences in all aspects of a person’s life, especially regarding his or her career and reputation. Every person is guaranteed an opportunity to refute criminal charges in court.

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