Romberg Balance Test Protecting Your Individual Rights

Romberg Balance Test

Challenging the Results of a Romberg Balance Test

In a DUI case, police officers must have probable cause to arrest someone they believe was driving under the influence. In other words, they must have some concrete evidence they can point to confirming their suspicions that the driver was impaired. They can gather this evidence by having drivers perform field sobriety tests (FSTs). Although standardized FSTs validated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) exist, an officer might subject a driver to a non-standardized assessment referred to as the Romberg balance test. When an officer administers the test, they are looking for indicators of impairment, such as an inability to maintain balance, giving them cause to arrest the individual. However, because little data shows that the Romberg balance test is reliable, a person’s poor performance on them can often be challenged.

If you were charged with a DUI and were alleged to have failed the Romberg balance test in Atlanta, reach out to Willis Law Firm for legal assistance. Many factors could have contributed to how you performed on the assessment. Our lawyer will analyze the facts to determine how to challenge the results. Backed by over 20 years of experience and having undergone extensive DUI training, Attorney Greg Willis has the knowledge and skills to develop a solid defense and aggressively fight charges.

Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation by calling us at (404) 566-5199 or contacting us online today.

What Is the Romberg Balance Test?

The Romberg balance test is a divided attention assessment administered by police officers during a DUI stop. Divided attention tests require subjects to attend to multiple stimuli simultaneously.

Attending to two or more things at once can be challenging for someone under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Thus, police officers use the Romberg balance test to gauge a person’s level of intoxication.

How Is the Romberg Balance Test Administered?

The Romberg balance test consists of two stages: instructions and performance. The officer will be monitoring the driver’s performance during both parts.

During the instructions stage, the officer will relay the following to the individual:

  • Do not start the test until told to do so
  • Stand with your feet together and your arms at your side
  • Tilt your head back slightly
  • Close your eyes
  • With your eyes remaining closed, estimate the passage of 30 seconds
  • When you believe 30 seconds have passed, tilt your head forward, open your eyes, and say “stop”

Because this is not a standardized test, the instructions may vary from one situation to another.

After the officer tells the individual how to perform the Romberg balance test, they will have the person begin the assessment.

What Does the Romberg Balance Test Determine?

The Romberg balance test is supposed to determine whether a person is intoxicated. Essentially, it is a way to measure a person’s reaction time, ability to pay attention to directions, and muscle control and coordination.

The clues of intoxication the officer will be looking for include:

  • The individual’s ability to listen to instructions: The individual must perform the test exactly as the officer explained it. For example, they must tilt their head back before they close their eyes, they cannot start until the officer tells them to do so, and they must say “stop” and not some other word like “done” or “finished” to indicate that they have estimated 30 seconds have passed. Not doing things precisely suggests to the officer that the individual is impaired.
  • The individual’s ability to balance: While the individual is estimating the passage of 30 seconds, the officer will be monitoring them to see if they sway in any direction. Moving a few inches left or right, forward or backward, or in a circular motion is considered an indicator of impairment.
  • The individual’s ability to estimate the passage of time: The individual is required to say “stop” after they believe that 30 seconds have passed since they began the assessment. Finishing the test within 25 to 35 seconds is acceptable. However, more than that in either direction is considered a failure.
  • The individual’s muscle control: The officer will be watching the individual closely to see if the person’s eyelids jerk or they make any involuntary movements. Minor spasms might suggest that the individual is under the influence of alcohol/drugs.
  • The individual’s statements: The officer will also be listening to the individual throughout the test to see if the person says anything that may be an admission of being drunk or high.

Can Other Factors Besides Impairment Affect Performance?

Performance on the Romberg test isn’t only affected by alcohol or drug intoxication. A range of other things can cause a person to do something misconstrued as an indicator of impairment. Thus, even a completely sober person can find themselves under arrest on suspicion of DUI because of the assessment results.

Possible factors that can affect Romberg test performance include, but are not limited to:

  • Loud noises making it difficult to hear instructions
  • Medical condition, age, or injury affecting balance
  • Neurological disorders making it challenging to process instructions
  • Nerves making it hard to control muscle movement
  • Exposure to a new assessment making it difficult to perform right the first time

Additionally, the officer can contribute to a person’s poor performance. They might not clearly give the instructions, leaving the individual confused about what’s required of them. The officer also might not fully demonstrate the physical tasks the individual must do, such as tilting their head back or closing their eyes.

Contact Willis Law Firm for Help Challenging Romberg Test Performance

Because the Romberg balance test is not standardized or found valid and reliable by studies, the results may not be accurate. An officer might not have had probable cause to make an arrest if they based their actions on the assessment results.

Our attorney has a 93% success rate fighting DUI charges. Although past victories cannot guarantee future results, we are committed to protecting the rights and futures of our clients. We will zealously advocate on your behalf and can seek an optimal outcome.

Learn more about how we can help with your Atlanta case by contacting us at (404) 566-5199 today.

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