Why did the Officer Make me say the Alphabet Backwards after Being Arrested in Massachusetts?

If you find yourself in a situation where you are pulled over by a police officer after a night of drinking, it is likely the officer will instruct you to perform field sobriety tests as a way to determine if you are in fact intoxicated.

Reciting the ABC’s is a commonly used method, and many people believe that, if pulled over, they will be required to recite the ABC’s backward. While the ABC test is a real sobriety test that officers can utilize to determine a persons blood alcohol concentration, it is highly unlikely you will be required to recite the alphabet backwards; backwards-recital of the ABC’s is more of a myth than a reality for most.

The National Traffic Safety Administration, sometimes referred to as NHTSA, states that the only field sobriety tests that are supported by research are the:

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
  • The walk-and-turn test
  • One leg stand test

This means that any other field sobriety test, including the reciting of the ABC’s backwards, is not scientifically reliable and therefore wouldn’t necessarily constitute an arrest. If an officer were to ask you to recite the alphabet, it is much more likely you would be asked to say the alphabet forward and to recite it at a slow pace. However, since the alphabet field sobriety test is not approved by NHTSA, there are no rules and regulations that officers are required to follow if they do wish to have you recite the alphabet.


Contact Attorney DelSignore today if you would like to discuss any field sobriety tests you may have taken after being stopped by a police officer. Often times, there are small mistakes officers make that allow the evidence to be inadmissible at court. To read more about the field sobriety tests endorsed by the NHTSA, click here.