Reciting the Alphabet Stand Field Sobriety Test
Another non-standardized field sobriety test that a police officer may use in making a determination of impairment is the reciting the alphabet test. Since this test is a non-standardized field sobriety test, it is not endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That is to say, this test has not been validated by the NHTSA because it failed to meet the applicable requirements for standardization.
The reciting the alphabet field sobriety test is a divided attention test. That is to say, this test requires you to divide your attention between a mental task and a physical task. If a police officer decides to administer the reciting the alphabet field sobriety test, he will instruct you to stand with your feet together with your hands at your sides and remain still. He will then instruct you to recite the alphabet without singing or stopping.
Sound easy? Well, since this test is not standardized, the officer can select random letters for both the starting and stopping points. For example, the police officer might instruct you to begin with the letter “J” and stop with the letter “U” and instruct you to recite the relevant alphabet forward . . . or backwards!
While you are performing the reciting the alphabet field sobriety test, the police officer is evaluating your performance for the presence of various indicators of impairment. These indicators include the following: (1) the failure to state a letter; (2) the repetition of a letter; (3) stating the alphabet in the improper order; (4) the failure to complete the test; (5) the failure to state the alphabet without singing; (6) the failure to maintain your balance; and (7) swaying in order to maintain your balance.
The reciting the alphabet field sobriety test has been criticized in a similar fashion to other field sobriety tests. Critics contend that it is unreliable, inaccurate and designed to fail. Moreover, the test fails to accurately differentiate between people who are sober and people who are intoxicated. Additionally, this test is particularly difficult for people whose native language is not English. But this test is even difficult for native English speakers who likely have not recited the alphabet since they were in elementary school.