The Oregon Court of Appeals earlier this month threw out a commonly performed roadside sobriety test as unscientific. A divided three-judge panel found the accuracy of vertical gaze nystagmus in establishing drunkenness remained unproven in the eyes of the court.
Curtis Wendell Bevan had passed through a laser speed trap in Umatilla County at an alleged 64 MPH in a 45 zone. Officer Gutierrez followed Bevan briefly and did not note any signs of erratic driving before pulling him over. Gutierrez did smell alcohol on Bevan's breath, and Bevan admitted drinking two beers -- the empty cans were still in the car. On this basis, Gutierrez administered a series of field sobriety tests.
Bevan failed the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test where he was asked to follow a penlight with his eyes as the light moved from side to side. When the eyes jerk involuntarily, that motion is known as "nystagmus" and is caused, according to Gutierrez, when an individual has consumed an excessive amount of alcohol or narcotics.
Bevan "maintained his balance perfectly" on the one-leg-stand test and scored four out of eight on the walk-and-turn-test (higher than two is a failure). Gutierrez explained a final sobriety test during lower court proceedings.