A Minnesota police officer must have probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving. An officer typically determines such cause during a traffic stop, after asking you to step out of your vehicle. The officer will be closely observing everything you do and say. He or she may also ask you to take a field sobriety test, such as the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.
This is a specialized eye test administered by asking the person taking the test to track an object horizontally or vertically without moving his or her head. In other words, if you were to take this test, a police officer might hold up his or her index finger or a pen, instructing you to follow its movement with your eyes, left to right or up and down. If you fail the test, the police can arrest you for DUI.
What determines whether you pass or fail a DUI test?
Field sobriety tests are often inaccurate. In fact, you might be sober and still fail. Your score is largely determined by a police officer’s personal assessment of your behavior during the test. With a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, a police officer will watch your eyes to see if there is erratic jerking before you reach your maximum peripheral vantage point.
Intoxication often causes this sort of “jiggle” or erratic eye movement. A law enforcement officer considers a failed Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test probable cause to take you into custody for suspected driver intoxication.
You can challenge a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test in court
A police officer must adhere to strict protocol when administering a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test or another field sobriety test. If you believe that the officer did not administer the test properly, you can challenge the results in court. It’s also possible that you might have a medical condition, such as a brain injury or vision disorder that could cause you to perform poorly when taking a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test.
A DUI conviction carries stiff penalties in Minnesota
Even if it’s your first offense and your blood alcohol content level was less than .16, you can still face a jail sentence of up to 90 days for a DUI conviction. The court may also order you to pay substantial fines, and, depending on your circumstances, the state might suspend your driver’s license, as well.
Knowing that it’s possible for field sobriety tests to be skewed or for a Minnesota police officer to err while administering a test, it is always best to consider all defense options available, including but not limited to requesting a case dismissal or challenging evidence if a personal rights violation has taken place.