There is no perfect measure for determining a DUI on the side of the road. Even the breathalyzer is fallible and has a significant margin of error. Field sobriety testing is one way officers attempt to determine if a suspect they have pulled over is under the influence. But even this practice is fraught with imperfections and has come under fire in the court room for its subjectivity.
Because of this problem, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has standardized a few tests to ensure greater accuracy. This means that they have set up specific protocols for administering these tests, which the officer must follow to a tee, to perform correctly.
In many states, only standardized testing is allowed, and other forms of field sobriety tests are inadmissible as evidence of a DUI. Yet, in other states, officers still practice the use of non-standardized testing, from time to time.
One of these non-standardized tests, still often used today, is the alphabet test. As it is not standardized, the officer is able to determine his or her own rules for how the test should be performed. It may not be as simple as reciting the alphabet.
Suspects may be asked to recite the alphabet backwards, from Z to A. Or, the officer may hand the suspect a piece of paper and a pen and ask him or her to write out the entire alphabet in order. If the officer’s specific instructions are not followed correctly and completely, or if the suspect makes a mistake, the officer may charge the individual with a DUI and make an arrest.