Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ithaca Lawyer Defending the NY DWI with The Police Alphabet Test

Alphabet test, OMG, from

Sometimes I muse it might be fun being a cop. Why you ask? 

1. They get to command, direct, and instruct people as part of their investigative power. 
2. They get to make shit up. They can lie, and they can use their imaginations to get to the truth.

When it comes to DWI investigations they get to make up their own tests. These are called the 
NON-standardized field sobriety tests because they have NO standards. There is no procedure, instruction, scoring, or method by which we can all agree that someone passes or fails. It is all up to the individual police officer or trooper to decide. How fun is that?

One such test they love to give is the Alphabet test. I have even seen officers give this to foreigners (people whose 2nd language is English). They usually begin by asking people what grade they completed and if they understand English. 

Ithaca Police or IPD, from
1. Alphabet must be said not sing songed. 
The police do not want to hear you say the alphabet as you learned it as a child. This is too easy.

2. They will pick a specific letter to start and end with. This is usually not letter "a" to letter "z." Again way too easy. They will usually pick letter "j" to letter "u."

3. They will want you to begin when they instruct you to.

The alphabet is one of those non-standardized tests that I like for a number of reasons.

1. Even drunk (impaired) people can remember their alphabet. It is so ingrained in the brain.
2. You can usually speak the pronounce the letters articulately. The officer can generally understand you because they know what comes next and know the sequence.
3. It can demonstrate your memory, your alertness, and your cognitive abilities. 
4. Your performance can attack police testimony that your speech was slurred or that you were incoherent.

All in all, I prefer the police alphabet test over many of the other "made up" sobriety tests. 

Larry Newman, D.C., Esq.