When an Officer Asks You to Follow a Pen Light What Is He Looking For?

Unless you have been through the process before, being pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence, or DUI, is an intimidating experienced even if you are completely sober. As is often the case, understanding what is happening can make the experienced a bit less intimidating and frightening. For example, when an officer asks you to follow a pen light, what is he looking for? Knowing the answer to questions such as this will come in handy of you ever do find yourself a suspect in a DUI stop in Tennessee.

When a law enforcement officer pulls over a motorist for any reason it is not unusual for the officer to ask the motorist a few basic questions to determine if the motorist appears to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If the officer does become suspicious that the driver is operating under the influence the officer will typically ask the motorist to step out of the vehicle and perform a series of field sobriety tests, or FSTs. These tests are intended to test for things such as balance, stability, coordination, memory, and ability to follow instructions – all indicators of a person’s level of intoxication.

One of those FSTs is the “Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus”, or HGN, test. The HGN test usually involves an officer holding an object – typically a pen light – in front of a suspect’s face and asking the suspect to track the object as the officer moves it from the center of the driver’s eyes over to one side and back to the center. The process is repeated going to the other direction. The purpose of the test is to check for “nystagmus”, a horizontal “jerking” or “bouncing” that occurs in your eye when you gaze to the side. This “jerking” becomes more pronounced when a suspect is intoxicated. Therefore, the officer is checking to see how bad the nystagmus is in your eyes in order to gauge your level of intoxication.

While the HGN test can be an accurate predictor of intoxication, the accuracy of the test depends on a number of factors such as the operator’s ability to properly administer and read the test and whether or not you have any medical or physical reasons why you might exhibit nystagmus without being intoxicated.

If you were arrested for DUI in Tennessee and you were asked to perform the HGN test during the stop, consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby if you have additional questions. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Dinah Michael