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What is nystagmus?

Have you been arrested for and charged with a drunk driving offense in New Jersey? If so, you may well have been asked to participate in field sobriety tests. Even if you completed them, did you fully understand them? Many people do not and they also do not realize that these tests are not 100-percent accurate in terms of determining intoxication. 

According to, one of the tests is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. A nystagmus is a jerking or bouncing of the eyeballs that is not voluntarily controllable. When under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the jerking may be more pronounced, especially as your eye moves from looking forward to looking out the side of your eye socket.

In this test, an officer holds an item in front of you and moves it from one side of your head to the other. You are supposed to follow it without moving your head, only your eyes, so that the officer can evaluate your eye's jerking as it moves closer to the side at the 45-degree location and then when all the way to the side as well as when facing forward. The results of this test are said to be 77-percent accurate in determining intoxication. Even this seemingly low accuracy rate is actually greater than the other two field sobriety tests.

This information is not intended to provide legal advice but is instead meant to give New Jersey residents an overview of one of the three field sobriety tests used by police before making drunk driving arrests.

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Law Offices of Michael T. Nolan, Jr.
514 Brick Boulevard, Suite 6
Brick, NJ 08723

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