In 2017, an appeal from Fayette County State Court in Georgia, Mitchell v. State, 301 Ga. 563, 802 S.E. 2d 217 (2017), reached the Georgia Supreme Court on a DUI suspect’s appeal. Finding that the trial court failed to require the State to put up scientific proof (DWI-DUI lawyers call this a “proper evidentiary foundation”) for a jury being told that the Romberg field sobriety test justified Mitchell’s arrest for DUI-marijuana. Georgia law is anchored in a previous case called Harper v. State, 249 Ga. 519, 292 S.E.2d 389 (1982).
Now that the Georgia high court has “called b.s.” on the phony police test, DUI defense attorneys now must cite this legal precedent to block “junk science” from being used to convict their clients. This case has far-reaching implications by bringing public focus to police “manufacturing so-called “tests” and convincing motorists at the roadside to “attempt” performing them, to keep from being arrested.
A Romberg test is a medical screening tool named after its inventor, a 19th-century German neurologist. Importantly, the REAL Romberg test has nothing to do with DUI-drugs, DUI-alcohol or and other impairing substance. In fact, when the human “balance” test was created over 200 years ago, neither cars nor drunk driving laws existed. Except for police, no medical professional uses it to detect marijuana use. In fact doctors only use Romberg screening to test proprioception, which is a patient’s ability to maintain “normal” balance while standing in a specific manner.
It Is a Neurological Test, Not a Field Sobriety Test for Marijuana Use
Police officers have been falsely taught (by NHTSA, a federal government agency) and IACP (the International Association of Chiefs of Police) that the modified Romberg test is a reliable marijuana test for drugged driving. For officers who have the additional training through DRE or ARIDE, the Romberg field sobriety test has been added to their “screening” of citizens who are unaware that all field sobriety tests are OPTIONAL.
Romberg testing for anything except proprioception is bogus, counterfeit. Loss of normal proprioception is often tied to damage of the cranial nerves and the normal reflex hammers. ability to use our sensory and vestibular functions (eyes, balance and our inner ear cochlea) to know where our body is in space. Think of the brain and spinal cord as a gyroscope for the human being, and the Romberg balance test being the preliminary neurological examination that can identify (for a highly trained physician) a serious neurological disorder.
NHTSA and IACP Are Responsible for False Convictions by Sanctioning Bogus Testing and Training
Police Tests called “modified” Romberg or the “Romberg alphabet test’ are law enforcement LIES that were promulgated by the federal and state government agencies. The IACP and N.H.T.S.A. sponsored these bogus training courses using public funds, for the purpose of getting more convictions, even if based on fraud and lies.
In addition to the falsehood of this medical test being able to those who smoked marijuana before driving, some police DRE and SFST instructors have been deceived by NHTSA into incorrectly claiming that “symptoms” obtained from a Romberg neurological exam also indicates being under the influence of alcohol.
The end of this farce came at the hands of criminal defense attorneys, fighting for their clients. Before DUI defense lawyers obtained advanced-level training in forensic medicine through the National College for DUI Defense, NACDL and DUIDLA advanced trial tactics seminars, thousands of innocent clients pleaded guilty or were convicted of a DUI charge based on modified Romberg evidence.
The Romberg test is a two-phase standing test. German neurologist Moritz Heinrich Romberg developed this test after discovering common symptoms of “sensory ataxia” in many patients. Never in medical history has a peer-reviewed research study correlated a Romberg exam with reliably predicting drug impairment by prescription medications or weed.
Dr. Romberg developed and simplified two similar balancing tests (one with eyes closed and one with eyes open) that helped physicians (in the mid-1800s) to identify onset of possible severe illness, a tumor on the spinal cord, or the sexually-transmitted disease known as syphilis. When a person was in the advanced stages of syphilis, loss of functions in the patient’s arms and legs may be present, and loss of normal functions including urination.
The goal was to treat or eliminate the cause of the problem, if it was an operable tumor. The short observational maneuvers revealed a lack of balance when the person had his or her eyes closed, with arms to his or her sides.
No tilting back of the head was used, much less any detection of “eye flutters” or other made-up-out-of-whole-cloth bogus science that was pushed by law enforcement trying to support a bad arrest.
After finishing medical training in 1817, Romberg studied under Austrian doctor Johann Peter Frank, until 1820. Dr. Frank was renowned for his studies of the spine, central nervous system and the role of proper hygiene in disease prevention.
When Romberg returned to Berlin in 1820, he began charity work with the city’s poorest citizens. An overwhelming number of his patients contracted diseases of the spinal cord and central nervous system linked to poor hygiene.
His patients’ balance issues were never related to drugs or alcohol. Their spinal problems resulted from syphilis or another form of head injury, a compromised spinal column from trauma or disease (a growth pressing on the spine).
The “need” of the police is that some DUI-DWI suspects REFUSE to submit to an implied consent test of blood, or possible a urine test, looking for drugs. Then, a quantitation of the drug or drugs (e.g., marijuana and Xanax) is revealed by forensic testing instruments in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). The police add an aura of legitimacy to the test by adding similar wording, as is found in medical literature about the real Romberg test. Don’t fall for it.
The modified Romberg test requires a driver to stand still, close his or her eyes, tilt their head back, and count silently to the number the officer gives you (usually 30 seconds max). The officer is looking for an inability to maintain balance by excessive swaying, raising your arms to steady yourself, or falling backward.
The modified Romberg test is NOT to judge “balance,” but is an evaluation purported to judge a person’s ability to estimate time correctly. The goal of a Romberg test for DUI-DWI has no proven, reliable connection to identifying suspects who are driving under the influence of drugs. Instead, it screens the person’s neurological health issues, or their ability to stand or walk normally.
Plus, the police-oriented exam CREATES a loss of balance. Remember that the test subject has been made to lean their head back at an angle rather than straight ahead, which is not the “normal” Romberg test stand posture.
Again, do not take this test. It only adds to the prosecutor’s evidence against you in your DUI drugs case.
Many field “sobriety test” procedures aren’t accurate indicators of impaired driving, drug effects, and observable intoxication even though they are modified versions used by neurologists to diagnose brain disease.
Field sobriety tests are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) or eye test, the walk and turn (WAT) or heel to toe, and the one-legged stand (OLT). These tests are VOLUNTARY! These unreliable exercises can only harm your chances of defeating the drunk driving charge or DUI-drug charge, especially if your case goes to trial and your poor performance is shown to a jury.
Speaking of Romberg test issues, famous golfer Tiger Woods took a very poorly conducted version of the bogus Romberg alphabet test during his Florida DUI arrest in May 2017. This evaluation from a Jupiter FL officer asks detainees to recite the alphabet.
The suspect doesn’t have to recite the alphabet backward, as many believe. Rather, suspects must recite the entire alphabet or a section of the officers choosing (i.e., from “f” to “v”). Woods understood the instructions to say recite the national anthem instead of the alphabet. Tiger passed the test once he was read the instructions again. Just like the regular Romberg, this version is a non-standard version. Read more about Tiger Woods’s DUI test here!
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