Romberg Test DUI Results Used by Police Have Never Been Proven to Reliably Identify Drug Impairment
Named after a 19th-century neurologist, the Romberg test is used to evaluate medical patients to see if they have “normal” balance while simply standing in a certain manner.
This is a two-phase test, with one variable being changed, in the evaluation that requires about two minutes or less to perform. In NO WAY do Romberg tests have anything to do with field sobriety tests given by police, that bears his name, in an attempt to garner legitimacy for bogus roadside evaluations, allegedly able to detect certain drug usage.
What is the Romberg test?
This physical balance test was named after German neurologist Moritz Heinrich Romberg, who discovered common symptoms of “sensory ataxia” being reported by patients.
After finishing medical training in 1817, Romberg studied under Austrian doctor, Johann Peter Frank, until 1820. Dr. Frank had developed a reputation for studying the spine and central nervous system, and the relationship of proper hygiene, in not contracting disease. When Romberg returned to Berlin from Austria in 1820, he became a doctor who took on charity patients, and did this charity work for 25 years.
Seeing the poorest citizens of Berlin often brought him into contact with conditions affecting the spinal cord or central nervous system, and a good number were related to disease and poor hygiene.
Before going any further, you may be asking, “What does a 19th-century German doctor and DUI have to do with each other?” That is a GREAT question, since the concept of “drunk driving” was never considered in world history, before the automobile was invented in the late 1800s. The answer is NOTHING.
No one in the WORLD knew what “driving under the influence” of DUI meant. The truth is, that police in America have spawned a great lie, and have misappropriated a great falsehood, and impugned the good name of an important medical scientist that was born in 1795.
Police from other countries have brainlessly adopted the false claims of the law enforcement community in America, and started arresting people in other nations for DUI-drugs, based upon the bogus modified Romberg test.
The Jewish doctor from Eastern Germany published a medical book on topics relating to discoveries he had made in his first two decades at the Berlin charity hospital, including information on how to use the neurological test that now bears his name.
The book was released in 1840 and later revised in 1846, describing his method of using his “test” to determine if the loss of balance being experienced by the patient was being created by a cerebellar cause, or from a vestibular cause. We can only assume that the portrait of Dr. Romberg above, shows him holding one of the copies of his medical book.
If a person has a vestibular (inner ear) balance issue, then a doctor can try to correct the imbalance by clearing up a blockage caused by small crystals becoming dislodged from the utricle (a place within your inner ear). These particles float in the liquid within the semicircular canals and can block and interfere with the free flow of fluids within the three fluid-filled semicircular canals.
Correcting this vestibular problem in the mid-1850s (and even today) is done by manipulating the patient’s head area by inversion (turning the person’s head and body upside down and sideways) and with rotation movements to try to change the fluid movement within the semicircular canals, where tiny cilia (hairs) exist that may help push the crystal out of the blocked canal.
People with a vestibular problem could typically perform the first step of Doctor Romberg’s test, which is done with their eyes open.
However, if the underlying cause was coming from the cerebellum, then the patient who tried to stand with both feet together, side by side and touching each other, with arms to their side, could not do the Romberg test either with eyes open or closed. This deficit, when coming from the cerebellum region of the brain near the base of the skull where the spinal cord exits, pointed to a more serious, and possibly incurable disease, or a prior serious trauma that has damaged the dorsal columns (posterior columns) of the spinal cord.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William C. Head
William C. Head is a criminal defense attorney and personal injury lawyer with 41 years of litigation experience. The Atlanta DUI lawyer has authored or co-authored over a dozen books, and is Board Certified by the ABA in DUI Defense. More than 22 years ago, he started the National College for DUI Defense, and launched national DUI lawyer training for field sobriety tests and breath alcohol testing. The Georgia lawyer has handled over 200 appeals of criminal and civil cases.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.