What is Nystagmus in Oklahoma?

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Question: What is nystagmus of the eyes in an Oklahoma DUI case? Can it be caused by anything other than alcohol use?

Answer: Nystagmus is a condition of the eye where the eyeball or the pupil starts twitching. And it can be caused by, the last count that I had there were 32 known types of conditions in which nystagmus can occur. When you have alcohol on board where it’s affecting the central nervous system, when you start moving somebody’s eye out to the outer edge where it’s looking out the periphery corner of the eye, the closer they get, the muscles are affected, the nerves that are affected that control the muscles are affected and they can’t hold a steady pressure against the eye to keep it out there, and the eyeball will start twitching in and out as it’s trying to focus on the object that they’re looking at.

But there are multiple other things; for example, there’s actually conditions that people have that can cause what we call “resting nystagmus.” That’s where they’re sitting there staring straight ahead, they’re putting no pressure whatsoever on the muscles, but because of the medical condition they have, their eyes are doing it all the time. But in relation to a DUI stop, one of the biggest things that a person can run into on the road if they get pulled over is if the officer does not turn off his flashing emergency lights, and the licensee is looking back at those lights.

That’s what we call auto-kinetic nystagmus. Just looking at them will cause them to start, just like looking at a strobe light. So, that’s another way that we attack, actually attack the field sobriety tests, in that the officer didn’t turn his lights off. There were multiple or even cars driving by if there’s a lot of traffic, you’ve got red-white, red-white, red-white on the cars, the headlights and the taillights at night, because the vast majority of your DUI stops happen at night. So, yes, there are lots of ways, lots of things that can cause nystagmus other than the presence of alcohol.

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