How can we aid law enforcement in DUI cases?
June 26, 2022 By Ken Fichtler
New device captures video evidence of impaired eye movement
When working on an impaired driving case, law enforcement officers are confronted with a significant challenge. They must evaluate a driver suspected of being impaired and capture conclusive evidence of that impairment, all in often adverse conditions. Historically, courts have received very little conclusive data to corroborate the officer’s findings. Breathalyzers and blood draws have helped, but only for alcohol DUIs, where impairment can be accurately measured by determining the amount of alcohol in the body.
Unfortunately, almost no other drug shows the same 1:1 correlation of bodily content to impairment. That makes detecting drivers who are impaired on other substances extremely challenging, particularly cannabis where the simple presence no longer constitutes a crime.
Currently, in order to determine impairment for any substance except alcohol, drivers are commonly put through a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) examination. This 12-step process is designed to elicit the signs and symptoms of impairment, which the officer can put in his or her report and later testify to. Drug Recognition Expert officers have received the highest level of training available to detect and categorize drug impairment. Courts have generally accepted statements from these specially trained officers as expert testimony, but an officer’s credibility is constantly subjected to scrutiny by defense attorneys looking for a way to get the charges dropped or reduced.
In recent years, body cameras and dash cameras have helped to capture evidence for the physical tests used by Drug Recognition Experts and roadside standardized field sobriety tests. The ability to show a person stumbling or even falling on video is tremendously helpful in allowing a court to see impairment for themselves. That, however, leaves a significant portion of the tests still lacking in objective evidence. In particular, the eye tests are some of the most scientifically validated, biologically complex and difficult to prove portions of the DRE examination.
Now, a new tool is helping law enforcement officers capture objective video evidence of impaired eye movement. The tool, called Gaize, is a standalone testing device that fits on a suspect’s head. It automatically runs the same tests used by Drug Recognition Expert officers, and does so exactly according to the training manual. Using embedded eye tracking sensors and cameras, it was engineered to capture video evidence of how the eyes move in response to these tests. The output is clear, actionable proof of impaired eye movement. The video created can be shown to a court, included in a case file, or used for training purposes.
The new technology is able to run all the DRE eye tests, including lack of smooth pursuit, distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation, horizontal gaze nystagmus prior to 45 degrees, vertical gaze nystagmus, lack of convergence and pupillary rebound dilation. The product simultaneously measures pupil diameter directly throughout the tests, rather than an officer estimating pupil size.
The headset is a standalone unit, meaning that no tethered computer is needed to conduct tests. The headset is also battery-powered. Tests are initiated using a mobile app; this allows the person administering the test to input needed information, start or stop tests, and monitor the testing process. Test results are uploaded to secure cloud storage which can be accessed using the web portal on either a mobile device or a computer.
Using this technology, courts will be able to clearly see for themselves the indications of impairment that manifest in the eyes. Since these symptoms of impairment that are consistent between users, and since users cannot train themselves to be better at them (unlike the physical tests), the value of video evidence of impaired eye movement cannot be overstated.
All tests on Gaize begin with an automated calibration step that ensures that each test captures high-accuracy data. This includes a check for equal pupil sizes. If unequal pupil size is detected, the test administrator will be notified on their mobile app. There are several reasons that pupil sizes could be unequal, including genetic reasons, acute head injury, or past head injury. This can be important for a test administrator to know in case the test subject needs medical attention.
The product can also be useful as a training tool. Officers can now watch video showing varying pupil sizes, nystagmus from subtle to extreme, lack of convergence and pupillary rebound dilation rather than just reading about it in a training manual. They can also estimate pupil sizes using a pupilometer, then check their work to see if they were accurate.
Gaize ushers in an era of greater objectivity in DUI cases, and a higher rate of convictions. The company is working to further expand the capabilities of the product as well, and future improvements will be available via simple over-the-air updates.
Ken Fichtler is the Founder and CEO of Gaize, https://www.gaize.ai.
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