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Holiday DUI patrols are gearing up for Maricopa County

Posted by Craig Penrod | Nov 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

Law enforcement agencies across Maricopa County and the rest of Arizona are preparing for the holiday season by conducting refresher training for patrols designed to crackdown on potential drunk drivers.

The Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety frequently holds what it refers to as alcohol workshops. Recent training involved volunteers who  agreed to consume alcohol and become intoxicated in a controlled environment at the Arizona Department of Public Safety headquarters. Once the volunteers reached levels of intoxication officers from around the state were able to conduct a number of alcohol-related tests on the volunteers until the close supervision of their supervising officers.

According to AZGOHS, the workshop was a small portion of a series of three eight-hour courses that enables law enforcement officers to become more proficient in conducting alcohol investigations. The workshops also assist law enforcement officers in becoming certified in conducting Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) one of the investigative tools used to determine the level of intoxication of a driver suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). HGN is one of the three standardized field sobriety tests developed by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) to identify possible drunk drivers. Nystagmus is a term used to describe a bouncing eye motion that is displayed in two ways:

  • pendular nystagmus, where the eye oscillates equally in two directions, and
  • jerk nystagmus, where the eye moves slowly away from a fixation point and then is rapidly corrected through a saccadic or fast movement.

HGN is a type of jerk nystagmus with the saccadic movement toward the direction of the gaze. An eye normally moves smoothly like a marble rolling over a glass plane, whereas an eye with jerk nystagmus moves like a marble rolling across sandpaper. Most types of nystagmus, including HGN, are involuntary motions, meaning the person exhibiting the nystagmus cannot control it. In fact, the subject exhibiting the nystagmus is unaware that it is happening because the bouncing of the eye does not affect the subject's vision.

Alcohol causes two types of nystagmus: alcohol gaze nystagmus, which includes HGN and positional alcohol nystagmus. Although alcohol causes both, alcohol gaze nystagmus and positional alcohol nystagmus are very different and easily distinguishable. Testing for positional alcohol nystagmus is not a part of the standardized field sobriety test battery. Defendants sometimes claim or attempt to confuse matters by arguing that the nystagmus the officer saw was actually positional alcohol nystagmus and not alcohol gaze nystagmus.

The Governor's Office on Highway Safety has scheduled numerous dates throughout November and December that are designated for a DUI Task Force crackdown. Publicizing the workshop allows officials to notify the public that officers will be out in full force looking for drunk drivers throughout Maricopa County and the state of Arizona this holiday season.

It is important that your DUI legal situation should be handled by expert professionals with the experience possessed by the attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod, P.C.

About the Author

Craig Penrod

Craig W. Penrod was born and raised in Arizona and has practiced criminal defense for over 30 years. Mr. Penrod is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, Maricopa County Bar Association, State of Nevada Bar Association, American Bar Association, American Trial Lawyers Association, Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, Nevada Trial Lawyers Association, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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