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Cobb County DUI: Why Was the Cop Looking at My Eyes?

Question: I got a DUI in Cobb County a week ago. I have to go the Cobb State Court. I was out at a couple of Marietta places like Johnnie MacCracken's Irish Pub, Hemingway's Bar and Grill and The Wing Café & Tap House. We were celebrating some good grades at Kennesaw State University in an accounting class.

I got stopped because I was speeding. The cop said I was 44 miles per hour over the speed limit. He was pretty angry. He said I almost hit his car. He made me get out of the car and do some tests. My question has to do with the eye test. I'm not sure why he wanted to look at my eyes. I think he was trying to smell my breath to see if he could smell booze.

I was fairly tipsy but I wasn't drunk driving. I'm trying to figure out why he was looking into my eyes for so long. What was he doing? Can a police officer tell I was drinking from my eyes?

Answer: The Cobb County police officer was performing the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test. The HGN test is a field sobriety test. It is approved for use by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is based upon the degree of onset nystagmus, or jerking, of a suspect's eyes as he follows an object virtually without moving or turning his head. This "test" is scored by the police officer on a scale of 0 to 6 "clues." The higher number of clues, the greater the level of intoxication.

Almost always, police officers score the DUI suspect as having 6 clues. The state must show that (1) the officer had been trained properly to perform the HGN test and (2) that the officer performed the scientific procedures in an acceptable manner. State v. Tousley, 271 Ga. App. 874, 611 S.E. 2d 139 (2005).

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