Romberg Balance Test Procedures in California

April 1, 2021

Is the Romberg Balance Test Accurate?

Romberg Balance Test Procedures in California

The Romberg Balance Test is a field sobriety test (FST) that California law enforcement might use during a traffic stop. An FST is a method that police officers use to evaluate whether a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Based on the officer’s observations during the Romberg Balance Test, you can be placed under arrest on suspicion of DUI. Once arrested, you will be required to submit to a chemical analysis through either a breath or blood test.

Field Sobriety Tests Are One Option for DUI Arrests

A field sobriety test can be administered to drivers as part of a traffic stop. California law enforcement can use FSTs on the side of the road to observe whether they have grounds to arrest you for a DUI. FSTs can be used in conjunction with other data points, such as:

  • Standard questions such as “have you been drinking tonight?”
  • Whether your speech is slow or slurred.
  • Observation of your demeanor during the traffic stop.
  • Analysis of your body for signs of intoxication, like bloodshot eyes.
  • A preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) breathalyzer test.

Any or all of these methods can lead to you being placed under arrest. Both FSTs and PAS tests are generally voluntary in California. This means you typically have the right to politely refuse to take either test without suffering any legal consequences. The only exception is drivers under 21 years old or with prior DUI convictions cannot refuse a PAS test.

What Are the Procedures for the Romberg Balance Test?

One non-standardized field sobriety test used by California law enforcement is the Romberg Balance Test. If a driver consents to an FST, police can administer the test by having the driver:

  • Stand with their feet pushed together;
  • Tilt their head back;
  • Keep their eyes closed;
  • Guess that 30 seconds has elapsed; and,
  • Once the driver believes 30 seconds have gone by, they are to:
    • Tilt their head forward;
    • Open their eyes; and,
    • Say “stop.”

What Is the Officer Observing During the Test?

Law enforcement is supposed to look for six general factors when administering the Romberg balance test. The driver is observed to see:

  • How much they sway during the 30 seconds, and in which direction they sway.
  • How accurately the driver’s estimates 30 seconds.
  • Whether the drive has tremors in their eyelids, torso, or legs.
  • Whether the driver flexes their muscles or goes limp.
  • If the driver talks or murmurs during the test.
  • The driver’s ease in following the officer’s directions.

However, there is no standardized Romberg balance test. This means its execution can vary from location to location, police department to police department, or even between officers in the same squad.

Because the National Highway Transportation Safety Board has not issued rules or regulations regarding the Romberg FST, predictability is lacking. What one officer deems suspicious another may think is entirely normal.

Additionally, there is no scientific study that has evaluated the accuracy of the Romberg balance test. Arresting a driver based on the supposed results of this FST calls into question law enforcement’s entire case. Therefore, we always recommend you always decline to take a Romberg balance test (or any FST) during a California traffic stop.

If you were arrested for a DUI after a Romberg balance test in Costa Mesa, California, a skilled defense attorney can challenge the results. Contact the Chambers Law Firm today at 855-397-0210 or to discuss how we can fight your case.

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