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I started practicing DUI law in Ohio in 1970 and at that time the police officers used to have you perform what they called the “California Tests” at the police station. One test was counting backwards, i.e. from 45 to 20. Another test was to recite the alphabet either in totality or a portion thereof without singing it like we were taught to do. Then they would place coins on the counter in the processing room. The coins were 25¢.10¢, 5¢, and 1¢. They would lay them in right next to one another and ask you to pick them up. At times they would lay them down next to each other and ask you to pick up the coin they call out to see if you could do this correctly and if your dexterity was impaired with small articles. Then they would mix them up and ask you the put them in order from 1¢ to25¢.

Some of the police officers would have you stand up with your arms at your side, head back, and then ask you to touch your nose with the index finger on your right and left hand. This is called the Rhomberg test Attorney Chuck Laroue an attorney in Arizona posted a memo on the National College of DUI Defense website on February 25, 2004, citing an article by Dr. Joe Citron-” Not Really a SFST the Truth about the Romberg Test.” In his memo, he states: “The test was first reported in 1846 as a test for diagnosing spinal cord problems associated with late-stage syphilis. Dr. Moritz Romberg was the director of the Royal Polyclinic Institute, which was a part of Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin.

Doctors still use the Romberg test to check for spinal cord problems. The original test consisted of first testing the subject with his eyes open and recording the amount of body sway and then having the subject close his eyes and recording the amount of body sway. The next step involved comparing the results of the two tests. Spinal cord problems were indicated if there was more sway with the subject’s eyes closed then with eyes open. The original tests did not involve any intoxicants or drugs. In the original test, the subject’s feet were side by side and the modified version have the feet in tandem orientation. The modification of the Romberg test seems to be the elimination of the open eyes portion of the test and the changing of the position of the subject’s feet. There is no scientific validation to support these changes nor is there any validation that the modified test has any correlation to intoxication. NHTSA looked at the Romberg Modified test and rejected it as being sufficiently reliable for a Standardized Field Sobriety Test. Since the test has not been standardized, officers often do not conduct the test in the same fashion and there are no standardized methods for evaluation. Another example of VooDoo Science.”

There was another test that I remember and that consisted of the police having you stand up and extending your hands out palms up and then they would ask you to turn them over and then flip them back after being told to do so. This was done in 10-second intervals. This Rapidly Alternating Movement Evaluation or medically called Dysdiadochokinesis-the inability to perform rapidly alternating movements. This is caused by MS in adults and cerebellar tumors in children and with people who have Parkinson’s disease.

Some police officers had you walk on your toes and on your heels but walking on heels was a way to test for foot dorsiflexion weakness, while walking on toes was the best way to test early foot plantar flexion weakness. Neither had anything to do with ethanol use.


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