How Useful is the Romberg Balancing Test in Determining Intoxication?

Police often use the “Romberg” test to determine whether a person has been driving while intoxicated. However, this test is inherently flawed in detecting a person’s intoxication. Without first establishing how that person would perform the test when sober, the test does not really determine anything. If you have been arrested for DUI, contact a Memphis DUI attorney for the best possible defense.

Function of Romberg Test

In 1853, a German ear doctor named Moritz Heinrich Romberg developed a test to diagnose diseases through measuring patients’ balance. Doctors use the Romberg test today to determine neurological or inner ear dysfunction.

Test Procedure

In the basic Romberg test, subjects stand with their feet together, arms down, head tilted back, and eyes closed. Doctors measure how much a person sways while in this position to assess whether the person may be suffering from certain diseases, aging, drug effects, injury, fatigue, or anxiety.

Variations of the test are sometimes referred to as the “Sharpened” Romberg or the “Modified Position of Attention.” These variations include standing heel to toe, holding the arms forward, tilting the head back, guessing when 30 seconds have passed, or standing in the normal Romberg position while putting one’s finger to one’s nose.

No Baseline in Law Enforcement Setting

In a clinical setting, subjects first perform the test with their eyes open so that the clinician can establish each subject’s baseline performance. However, establishing a baseline is practically impossible in a law enforcement setting. Yet, establishing a baseline is of vital importance in order to form any conclusion that a person’s sway while doing the Romberg test is connected in any way to intoxication. Therefore, the Romberg test’s usefulness as a field sobriety test is highly suspect.

If you’ve been arrested for DUI and are facing trial, contact an experienced Memphis DUI attorney who can fight on your behalf for an acquittal. John H. Parker, II and David Willis are dedicated DUI attorneys in the Memphis, Tennessee area who may be able to help you with your case. Simply fill out the form on this page to schedule a free initial consultation.