Why You Shouldn’t Take the HGN Test

Moriarty & Associates on the HGN Test for Drunk DrivingLast week, I discussed the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test for drunk driving and how it is administered. Now for a real-life example on why you should not do these tests.

A client of mine was involved in a car accident near Everett/Lynnwood when his car slid off the road in the snow as he tried to avoid an accident in front of him. A trooper arrived on scene and, after hearing my client’s explanation, immediately asked him to perform standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs), which my client politely—and smartly—refused.

Another trooper arrived at the scene and took over the investigation, again requesting my client to perform SFSTs. My client declined, stating he had bad knees and ankles. The trooper persisted and stated that my client could do an “eye test,” that it would “help him” by showing that he was not under the influence. (So much for the presumption of innocence.)

My client finally gave in and submitted to the HGN test. Guess what? It didn’t help him one bit. He was arrested immediately after the test (six of six clues, according to the trooper) and booked into the Snohomish County Jail for DUI.

Fortunately, there is a happy ending to this story. At the administrative hearing with the Department of Licensing, the hearing officer accepted our argument that the trooper lacked probable cause to arrest my client and reversed the pending license suspension.


Attorney Patrick M. Moriarty earned his Juris Doctorate from Western New England College School of Law in 1990. He is the founder of Moriarty & Associates, PLLC, and serves as a judge pro tempore in district and municipal courts in Snohomish County. Learn more.

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