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Rhomberg Balance Test

Roadside InvestigationCalifornia police officers, sheriff's deputies, or California Highway Patrol (CHP), who suspect a driver of driving under the influence (DUI) usually conduct a field sobriety test to gather evidence to support the charge.

These agility exercises shouldn't even be called tests, because they are designed to be failed. Their true purpose is to create probable cause for a drunk driving arrest and generate evidence for a criminal court and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Any motorist subjected to a field sobriety test before being arrested for a DUI or DWI should contact a California criminal attorney who focuses on defending DUI cases.

Field sobriety tests fall into two different categories - Standardized and Non-Standardized tests. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHSTA) has recognized three standardized field sobriety tests - the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the Walk and Turn test, and the One-Leg Stand test. Because these three tests have been endorsed by the NHSTA, they carry more weight in court than non-standardized tests.

A non-standardized field sobriety tests are so unreliable that they aren't even recognized by the NHTSA. However, despite the fact that these tests aren't considered accurate indicators of alcohol impairment, they are still used by police. The Rhomberg balance test is one of the non-standardized field sobriety tests.

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found the Rhomberg balance test is NOT an accurate indicator of mental and physical impairment, it holds less weight in court than a standardized test.

An officer conducts the Rhomberg balance test by instructing a driver to stand with his or her feet together, with head tilted back and eyes closed. The driver is told to keep his or her head tilted back while estimating the passage of 30 seconds, then tilt the head forward, open his or her eyes, and say "stop."

In almost every instance, the motorist will fail this test. If he or she overestimates 30-second period by counting too slowly, the officer likely will conclude that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. If the driver underestimates the passage of 30 seconds by counting too quickly, the officer will likely conclude that the driver has been using stimulants.

Besides testing the driver's skill at estimating the passage of 30 seconds, the officer also is watching for the driver's ability to follow instructions, swaying, and muscle tightening or tremors. The officer also will note any statements made by the driver.

It is not hard to understand why a driver will fail the Rhomberg balance test - while the officer is timing the test with a watch, the motorist is standing next to a busy street or freeway with his or her eyes shut, trying to determine the passage of 30 seconds.

Even though California law enforcement officers and prosecutors regard the Rhomberg balance test as sure indicators of the mental and physical impairment associated with Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), that's just not true. Field sobriety test results can be challenged as part of a strategic drunk driving defense. The best way to challenge the results of the field sobriety tests and fight a DUI charge is to consult with an experienced California DUI defense attorney.

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