The Romberg Test

Posted on August 21, 2014

The Romberg Test

If you have been pulled over for a DUI, you may already be familiar with the Romberg balancing test. A Redwood City DUI lawyer explains the history of this test, and that it cannot used in your case if it was administered incorrectly.

Moritz Heinrich Romberg was a German ear specialist. In 1853 he discovered that by using balance assessment, he could diagnose certain diseases. Today this test is still used to analyze some inner ear and neurological dysfunctions. Also, police officers have modified these tests for use in testing the sobriety of potentially inebriated drivers in the field. However, the Romberg test is not one of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.

Basics of the Romberg Test:
  • The subject stands with their feet together
  • The subject keeps their hands at their side
  • The subject tilts their head back
  • The subject keeps their eyes closed

Variations have arisen from this basic format, known as the “Modified Position of Attention” or the “Sharpened” Romberg. Variations involve the following:

  • standing heel to toe
  • tilting the head back and estimating when 30 seconds have passed
  • holding the arms straight in front of the body
  • standing in basic Romberg while performing the finger to nose test

In a clinical setting, the test begins with the eyes open. This helps to establish a performance baseline. When performed by Law Enforcement, the amount of sway is assumed to correlate with an impairment level of alcohol. However, the baseline is necessary to establish the degree of sway, which assesses not only exposure to alcohol but to certain illnesses, fatigue, stress or injury. The key to using the test reliably is in establishing a difference between normal and alcohol-induced performance. Without a baseline, it can be noted by your attorney that a baseline of the general population must be utilized, and there is a wide degree of results in the testing of the general population.

For more information on how the Romberg Test can be used in your DUI case, contact a Redwood City DUI lawyer at Silveira Law by calling (415) 795-3890.