Reliability of the Romberg Test

Reliability of the Romberg Test

While law enforcement officers rely on a number of testing procedures to establish intoxication in individuals, recent studies have cast doubt on the method known as the Romberg Test. An Orange County DUI lawyer can help you evaluate the procedure’s role in your case.

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Federal studies

To determine the Romberg Test’s consistency, researchers studied a group of 104 subjects. Ranging in ages from 18 to 51, the subjects participated in a typical Romberg Test,  in which an officer established their understanding of the procedure before directing them to stand with both feet together, arms at their sides.

After directing the subjects to “begin,” subjects were to tilt their heads back slowly, close their eyes and estimate a period of 30 seconds before bringing their heads forward, opening their eyes and saying “stop.”

To gather the relevant data, the officer in charge asked subjects how much time had passed, recording both their estimations and the actual time. Other factors studied included the degree of sway and the subject’s eyelid flutter.


When examining how subjects performed with their time estimation, researchers found that:

  • 4.8 percent of subjects estimated exactly 30 seconds
  • 78.9 percent of subjects estimated within +/- 10 seconds
  • 87.5 percent (cumulative) of subjects estimated within +/- 15 seconds
  • 100 percent of subjects estimated within +/- 23 seconds.

The results of eyelid flutter testing revealed that:

  • 28.0 percent of subjects exhibited no eyelid flutters
  • over 71 percent of subjects exhibited eyelid flutters

Lastly, researchers examined the degree of sway exhibited by the subjects, identifying a 56.7 percent majority of those who swayed between 1-2 inches and a balanced remainder of those who swayed less than 1 inch or between 2-4 inches. Researchers noted that body sway can be largely affected by the subject’s weight, physical condition or age.

Your Orange County DUI lawyer can take these results into consideration and help you determine if reliability may prove to be an issue in your case.


While the results exhibited some expected variations, it is true that this study and others have demonstrated that the Romberg Test may prove unreliable when evaluating a subject with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of more than .08 percent.

What does this mean for your situation? Get in touch with Orange County DUI lawyers the Law Office of Mike Coffey Attorney at Law& the Law Office of Mike Coffey Attorney at Lawat (800) 706-7888 to find out how studies like these may prove valuable for your case.