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What your eyesight has to do with possible DUI charges

As a conscientious driver, you're likely already aware that if you drink alcohol then get behind the wheel of a car to drive, you are taking a risk. Arizona law and other state laws prohibit operation of motor vehicles when the alcohol in your bloodstream exceeds certain limits. In most states, that limit is .08 percent. Your blood alcohol content may not be the only factor that impacts your situation if a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of drunk driving.

You may say or do something that prompts an officer to take you into custody. This is why it's crucial to know your rights ahead of time and also how to access legal assistance when you need it. It also helps to keep several things in mind if an officer approaches your driver's side window. A request to step out of your vehicle or submit to a horizontal gaze nystagmus test may not only mean the officer is detaining you but strongly suspects you of DUI.

Your vision problem may disrupt HGN results

Police often use the HGN to determine whether probable cause exists to arrest a motorist for possible drunk driving. The problem is that such tests are not always accurate. The following information may come in handy if prosecutors charge you with DUI in Arizona:

  • The HGN test is designed to measure your eye movements as you track an object that a police officer is moving left to right or up and down in front of you.
  • An officer typically instructs you before beginning the test to follow the object with your eyes only and not by moving your head.
  • The officer must administer the test correctly to produce reliable results. For instance, the object in question should be held approximately 12-15 inches from your face. Any closer or farther away could skew test results.
  • When conducting an HGN, an officer is checking to see if your eye movements are smooth and whether erratic jerking movements set in before your eyes have reached the point of maximum deviation (meaning, as far as you can glance in one direction).
  • If you suffer from a vision impairment of some sort, it can affect test results.
  • Failing an HGN is enough to land you in jail on suspicion of DUI.

Not only pre-existing eye conditions but other neurological or medical conditions may decrease the chances that an HGN will produce accurate results. If you suspect that an officer made an error when administering the test or that the results of your test were not accurate, you can challenge it. In fact, you are not required by Arizona law to take an HGN or any other type of field sobriety test in the first place.

Facing DUI charges can impede your ability to obtain gainful employment and can really throw things off track financially as well. A DUI conviction can have serious long-term negative consequences in your life. Many people have been able to mitigate such circumstances by relying on experienced and aggressive criminal defense support.

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