Having a big Super Bowl party or going to one at a friend’s house can be a great time. This year, given all the media coverage about “deflate gate,” media analysts are predicting even higher television ratings than previous years. As you are well aware, in addition to watching the game, a Super Bowl party usually involves a lot of drinking. As the Birmingham police are aware, the night also involves a lot of drinking and driving, which means a spike in DUI arrests.
It is probable there will increased patrols out on the streets and highways, as well as the possibility of sobriety checkpoints. While the best thing you can do is drink responsibly and use a designated driver, if you find yourself being pulled over by the police, there are several things you should keep in mind.
The police are trained to administer three standardized field sobriety tests (SFTSs) when conducting a traffic stop in which driver is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Those three SFSTs are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN), the Walk and Turn test, and the One Legged Stand. Our Birmingham DUI defense attorneys constantly hear from clients who believe they passed the HGN (eye test), and do not understand why they were arrested.
First it is important to understand how the test works. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established HGN test as being around 80 percent accurate at detecting if a driver’s blood alcohol concentration is 0.10 or higher. As you may be aware, the legal limit of alcohol concentration in Alabama is 0.08 grams per 100 milliliters of blood as it in all U.S. states.
The test involves a series of passes with a pen, finger, or lighted stimulus, in which the officer is looking for an involuntary jerking of the eyeball in a side-to-side manner. The fact it is side to side is why it is called a horizontal gaze nystagmus as opposed to vertical gaze nystagmus (VGN). An officer will also test for presence of VGN, but that is a test to determine if a suspect is on a dissociative hallucinogen like PCP.
What is important to understand is you cannot tell if you are exhibiting a HGN so there is no way for you to know if you “passed” the test. However, it is also important to understand many officers do not know how to properly administer the HGN, and your Birmingham DUI defense attorney can cross-examine the arresting officer at trial to try to show the court the results should not be deemed valid.
Again, while we urge you to stay safe and not drink and drive this Super Bowl Sunday, we understand people will make mistake. The best thing you can do if you are arrested for drunk driving is to hire an attorney who understands how to challenge SFST results, and is willing to fight the case at trial.