Updated on October 27th, 2021 at 07:05 pm

Studies that have examined the use of the Romberg balancing test in field sobriety settings suggest that it yields such varying results that it unreliable for this purpose.

In a study conducted with just over a hundred subjects who ranged in age from 18 to 52, police officers administered the Romberg test. The individuals were told to stand with their arms down at their sides and their feet together. They were to maintain the position while an officer gave the following instructions:

  • Wait to start the test until after the officer says “begin.”
  • As you wait, tilt your head back and close your eyes slightly.
  • When told to start, keep your head tilted back and your eyes closed until 30 seconds have gone by.
  • After estimating that half a minute has elapsed, bring your head forward, open your eyes, and say “stop.”

Women failing a Romberg testEnsuring that the subjects understood what to do and keeping track of the time while they performed the test was the officer’s job. He or she was also to ask, “How much time was that?” right when the subject opened his or her eyes. The data that was collected concerned the amount of sway, the eyelid flutter, and the accuracy of the time estimation.

The results indicated that even though the test subjects were not intoxicated, most of them were significantly off in terms of their time estimates, almost three-quarters of them showed eyelid flutters, and more than half swayed over half an inch. All three behaviors are usually taken to be signs of intoxication, but because these test subjects were not intoxicated, it suggests that poor performance on the test can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including weight, age, and physical condition.

In another study, police officers assessed the performance of 53 subjects and tried to assess which individuals had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent. The officers only had a 43 percent accuracy rate, and false positives occurred at an alarming level.

Your Milwaukee DUI lawyer may wish to use studies such as these to fight the use of Romberg test results in your case. For a free evaluation by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, please fill out the form on this website.