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The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN) is a test that is commonly performed by police during field sobriety testing to determine if a driver is intoxicated in North Carolina. This test involves an officer asking a driver to track an object, such as a pen, with their eyes without turning his or her head. The officer looks to see when the center of the eye begins to “jump” or “jerk” during the tracking process in order to evaluate how intoxicated the individual is. There is some speculation in the scientific community as to how reliable this test is but it is still accepted as reliable evidence in a DWI case so long as certain requirements are met.

Basically an officer may testify in court regarding the performance of the test the State has the burden to show that the test was reliable and that the officer was trained to administer the test. In order to be certified to administer the HGN test a police officer must attend a 24 hour course. After this brief course is completed the officer is considered to be trained well enough to being conducting the HGN test in the field.

Even if an officer is certified to conduct HGN testing it is possible for a defense attorney to challenge the admissibility of the testimony by the officer. The attorney can question the officer about the HGN testing process to try to show that he does not have a sufficient understanding of the test. Additional questions may be asked about how the officer performed the test. If the attorney can show the officer does not understand the test or did not perform it properly it may be possible to keep the testimony out.

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