Information on DUI Field Sobriety Testing in Kansas: The Alphabet Test
I'm often asked questions about different field sobriety tests, etc. Today I'll go over one of the common tests, The Alphabet Test.
During a DUI stop officers often ask people their level of education, and then ask them if they can say the alphabet. This can happen in many variations, they sometimes ask the person to say the alphabet without singing, or say the alphabet from C to Q, etc. Keep in mind it is perfectly legal for the Officer to ask someone to take this test, but the person DOES NOT have to take this test. A common response I get from people is that "I can't even recite the alphabet without singing if I was sober". I agree completely, which is why I always recommend people politely refuse this, and all other field sobriety tests in Kansas.
If someone does take the alphabet test the officer will be looking for what they call impairment indicators, such as improperly saying the alphabet, slurring of words, swaying, using arms for balance, etc. Like other field sobriety tests, the alphabet test is a divided attention test, meaning the test requires a DUI suspect to divide their attention mentally and physically.
The alphabet test is not always used by officers because it is not endorsed by the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This means that it is not supported by research and therefore not an official test.
Since the alphabet test is not an official NHTSA test, there aren't set guidelines for which an officer has to follow to administer it. This means officers may have a DUI suspect begin reciting the alphabet beginning on an arbitrary letter such as "C", and some even have the person say the alphabet backwards!
Needless to say the alphabet test isn't an accurate testing measure to be used in DUI stops, but some officers still use it anyways. The reason they continue to use it is because it gives them an opportunity to get the person on camera not looking their best. People are generally nervous wrecks when they are pulled over, regardless of whether or not they have had anything to drink. Once the officer has you out performing tests, heaven forbid you trip, mispeak, or remove your arms from your sides, because if you do they all become a sign pointing towards impairment.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, or other criminal charges in Kansas, contact our office in Overland Park, KS today for a free case evaluation with The KC DUI Guy, Attorney Robert C. Gigstad.