What Is the Officer Looking For When the Officer Asks Me to Follow a Pen Light?
If you are ever stopped by a law enforcement officer in New York and the officer believes you were driving while intoxicated you will likely be put through a series of questions and asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests. During those field sobriety tests, or FST, you may be asked to follow a pen light. Understandably, you may wonder " What is the officer looking for when the officer asks me to follow a pen light? " A better understanding of the FSTs in general, and the horizontal gaze nystamus test specifically, should answer that question.
Once an officer becomes suspicious that a motorist has been driving while intoxicated, or DWI, the officer typically asks the driver to perform a series of FSTs to confirm the officer's suspicions. An officer may use just about any FST he or she wishes to use; however, most officers use what are referred to as the three "standardized" FSTs. They are considered "standardized" because they have been approved by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA. The three standardized tests include:
- Walk and turn
- One leg stand
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, or HGN
The walk and turn and one leg stand are aimed at testing a suspect's memory, balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions. The results of these two tests are purely subjective, determined by the officer giving the tests. The HGN test is a bit more scientific, though the officer ultimately decides whether or not you passed this test as well.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is a twitching or jerking of your eye that happens involuntarily when your eye moves to the side. If you try and look at something in your peripheral vision without moving your head, for example, your eye will eventually start to twitch a little. If you are intoxicated, however, the jerking or twitching will usually begin earlier and will be more exaggerated. Therefore, the HGN test is considered a good indicator of intoxication.
To test for HGN, an officer generally uses a pen light, though any similar instrument may be used. The officer will ask you to follow the pen light as it moves away from the middle of your field of vision and over to one side then back to the middle. Both sides are usually tested in this manner. The officer is looking to see when the twitching or jerking begins and how pronounced it is. The earlier the HGN begins and the more exaggerated it is the more likely the suspect is intoxicated.
If you have been charged with DWI or another alcohol or drug related driving offense, contact an experienced New York criminal defense attorney right away.
Free Case Review
Arrested? Hurt in Accident?
Get Help 24/7
- Am I Allowed to Represent Myself in My New York DWI Case? Why Should I Hire an Attorney?
- Can I Do a Treatment Program in New York City?
- Can I Use Mouthwash to Avoid DWI in New York City?
- Can the Police Search Your Home Without a Warrant in New York?
- Do You Know Your Rights?
- Do You Need a Lawyer before You're Charged?
- DWI Stop -- How Do I Respond When Asked If I Have Been Drinking?
- Free Report: Who will be on the Jury for my Criminal Jury Trial in New York?
- Free Report: Are You Eligible for Drug Court in New York?
- Free Report: Constructive Possession in New York - What It Is and Why It Matters
- Holiday DWI Checkpoints in New York
- How Can I Get Evidence Thrown Out or Suppressed in New York?
- How Can You Defend Someone You Know Is Guilty?
- How Long Can I Go to Jail for Selling Drugs in New York?
- How Much Will a DWI Lawyer Cost in New York City?
- How Often Do Medical Errors Occur?
- If a Police Officer Asks You to Take a Field Sobriety Test What Should You Do?
- I Was Caught Smuggling Drugs – Will I Go to Federal Prison?
- I Was Notified of a Probation Violation Hearing in New York. Do I Need an Attorney?
- My Lawyer Told Me to Refuse the Chemical Test in New York, Is that Right?
- New York Construction Sites Accidents: Fatalities and Safety Violations [Infographic]
- Penalties for Alcohol and Drug-Related Driving Violations in New York [infographic]
- Should I Take a Breathalyzer Test in New York?
- Should I Talk to the Police or Prosecutor after I am Arrested in New York or New Jersey?
- The Crime of Rape in the State of New York
- Top Five Mistakes Defendants Make in a New York DWI Case
- Types of Medical Errors
- What Are Pre-Trial Hearings?
- What Are the Penalties for Possession or Sale of Marijuana in New York?
- What Are the Possible Defenses to a DWI Charge?
- What Are the Possible Defenses to New York Sex Crimes Charges?
- What Are the Possible Defenses to the Sale of Drugs in New York?
- What Are the Possible Penalties for Drug Possession in New York?
- What Are the Possible Penalties for DWI in New York?
- What Behavior and Patterns the Police Look for When Searching Out Intoxicated Drivers
- What If the Police Didn't Read Me My Rights before Arresting Me for DWI in New York?
- What Is a Line-Up and Show Up?
- What Is a Misdemeanor DWI in New York City?
- What Is an Arraignment In New York?
- What Is an Illegal Search in New York?
- What Is a Search and Seizure in New York?
- What Is a Sentence Enhancement in New York?
- What Is a Wrongful Death Case?
- What Is Boating While Intoxicated in New York?
- What Is Constructive Possession?
- What Is the HGN Test?
- What Is the Officer Looking For When the Officer Asks Me to Follow a Pen Light?
- What Is the Punishment for Possession of Cocaine in New York City?
- What Is the Punishment for Possession of Oxycodone in New York City?
- What Takes Place at a Criminal Trial?
- Who Will Be on the Jury for My Criminal Jury Trial in New York?
- Will I Be Drug Tested in Court in New York?