Trial court abused its discretion in dismissing a DUI case where it incorrectly determined a police officer’s opinion based on horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) testing was inadmissible unless linked to qualified expert testimony. Two officers observed Randolph weaving within his lane and pulled him over. The officers observed Randolph’s red, watery eyes, slurred speech, and clumsy movement. During field sobriety tests, Randolph displayed six of the six scientifically validated clues of impairment. He refused chemical testing. At his trial for misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol (Veh. Code, § 23152, subd. (a)), the trial court dismissed the case pursuant to its authority under Penal Code section 1385, relying on People v. Williams (1992) 3 Cal.App.4th 1326, in which the appellate court had excluded an officer’s opinion based on the result of HGN testing because the officer did not understand the science behind it. The People appealed and the case was ultimately certified for transfer to the Court of Appeal. Held: Reversed and remanded. HGN is a scientific technique that meets the admissibility standard set forth in People v. Kelly (1976) 17 Cal.3d 24. (People v. Joehnk (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 1488.) Once HGN testing satisfied the Kelly standard, police officers could be deemed qualified to administer and report the results of those tests. The prosecution is not required to submit expert testimony to confirm an officer’s evaluation of an HGN test. (See People v. Leahy (1994) 8 Cal.4th 587, 611.) Here, the trial court improperly relied on Williams, which was decided before HGN testing was deemed accepted under Kelly. Moreover, although there were disputed issues of fact, evidence aside from the HGN test strongly suggested that Randolph was unable to drive a vehicle safely due to alcohol intoxication.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/F075085.PDF