RHOMBERG BALANCE TEST

The Rhomberg balance test is one of several non-standardized field sobriety tests employed by Texas police investigating drivers for DUI / DWI. While many motorists hope that they can avoid a driving while intoxicated arrest by “passing” the Rhomberg balance test, that’s almost never the case. Field sobriety tests exist solely to establish probable cause and create evidence for a drunk driving court case. Fortunately, this evidence can be effectively challenged. The best way to fight a driving while intoxicated charge is to consult with an Texas attorney skilled at fighting drunk driving cases.

The Rhomberg balance test is not a standardized test recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), so it carries less evidentiary weight than a standardized test.

Police conduct the Rhomberg balance test by directing the driver to stand with his or her feet together, head tilted back, and eyes closed. The driver is instructed to gauge the passage of 30 seconds, tilt the head forward, open his or her eyes, and say “stop.”

It’s easy to see how a driver can “fail” the Rhomberg balance test. If the driver overestimates 30-second period by counting too slowly, the officer likely will conclude that the driver has been drinking. If the driver underestimates the passage of 30 seconds by counting too quickly, the officer may conclude that the driver has been using stimulants.

During the test, the police officer also is evaluating the driver’s ability to follow instructions, and looking for swaying and muscle tightening or tremors. The officer also will take note any statements made by the driver.

The Rhomberg balance test is unsuitable for many drivers, but that rarely stops police from administering it. Drivers can “fail’ the test for reasons that have nothing to do with alcohol intoxication. For example, a driver with a neck or back injury may be unable to stand with his or her head tilted back for 30 seconds. Although the driver suffers from a genuine physical problem, it may be viewed by police and prosecutors as an inability to complete the test correctly.

Field sobriety tests’ reliance on physical agility is inherently unfair because of the way that alcohol affects the human body. Experts agree that alcohol causes both mental and physical impairment, but mental impairment always occurs first. Drivers with a high tolerance for alcohol can hide physical impairment, but mental impairment cannot be masked. Thus, if the driver showed physical impairment but no mental impairment, the physical difficulties must stem from a source other than alcohol.

Police and prosecutors consider the Rhomberg balance test powerful evidence of the mental and physical impairment associated with alcohol impairment, but the test is inherently unreliable. An experienced Texas DUI / DWI criminal defense attorney will aggressively attack the Rhomberg and other evidence in a Fort Bend drunk driving case, and create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors.