The DUI Evidence is in the Eyes, but Not Yet in Court
By: Chris Kramer
It is often said that the eyes are the window to the soul, but to police officers they are also often a dead giveaway about the intoxication of a driver.
Officers are trained to look at the eyes of drivers to look for the telltale bloodshot or glassy eyes that can indicate that a driver has been drinking. Also, it is common for DUI suspects to be asked to follow a finger or object only with their eyes during field sobriety tests so that the officer can track the eye movement and look for signs of intoxication. Authorities claim that when a person is intoxicated they are unable to maintain smooth eye movement and alcohol makes the eyes involuntarily jerk when trying to follow a moving object regardless of their tolerance level.
Now new technology proves that the eyes have it - the DUI evidence anyway. A new device called "HawkEye" has been created by AcuNetx in California to record what the officer sees in the eyes of a DUI suspect. HawkEye is designed to make recordings of the eyes of suspected drunk drivers to be used as evidence in DUI trials.
HawkEye uses infrared lights to transfer the images of the eyes to a laptop computer and also is equipped with a wireless microphone. Ron Waldorf, the CEO of AcuNetx says that the device will not only be useful in recording drivers suspected of drinking and driving, but the eyes also react in different ways when a person is under the influence of drugs.
The California Highway Patrol has already been using HawkEye for three years to train cadets in West Sacramento. It is not used in the field there, but only to show cadets what to look for when evaluating the movements and appearance of a DUI suspect's eyes.
When the device has been used in field trials, all suspects have pleaded guilty to DUI so the HawkEye technology has never been seen in court. Prosecutors are cautiously optimistic about the new technology but realize that it will take time before it is deemed accurate and reliable evidence.
DUI defense lawyers say that the HawkEye evidence are simply "pictures" and will add nothing to a case against a person accused of DUI because breath tests and blood tests are already admissible in court. In drug cases, prosecutors would have to have a doctor's testimony as to what the HawkEye evidence means, according to DUI defense lawyer Jeffrey Kravitz. Additionally, Kravitz says that since HawkEye only records the suspect's eyes and not the officer's actions, there is an open door for arguments about how the officer conducted the test and if it was done properly.
Regardless of the arguments against HawkEye, some jurisdictions are already using the device at DUI checkpoints, so it is only a matter of time before the evidence is brought to court where it will be scrutinized and face challenges and hurdles that will have to be overcome if it is to become mainstream technology at DUI stops across the country.