A federal appeals court rendered an interesting decision in May in the case of Sean Harrington, who was arrested in Yosemite National Park one night in June 2011. Harrington was transported to a police station, where, the court said, he refused to take a test to measure his blood-alcohol content level. A second ranger informed Harrington – three times – that under California law his refusal to test would mean a one-year driver’s license suspension. No one, however, informed Harrington that under federal law, which governs national parks, refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test is punishable by up to six months in jail.
Harrington pleaded guilty to several federal charges including possession of marijuana, but he was prosecuted for refusing the blood test. Harrington was convicted of that charge, but he appealed and prevailed. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that by failing to advise Harrington about the federal law, the park ranger deceived Harrington, who might have consented to the blood test if he had known that refusing is a crime. “It was fundamentally unfair to convict Harrington on the refusal charge when he was told time and again that his refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test was not in itself a crime, even though it was,” wrote Judge John Noonan in the court’s unanimous ruling.
If you’re arrested and charged with DUI in California, whether it’s on federal, state, or private property, get the legal help you need and call an experienced DUI defense attorney at once. A good DUI defense lawyer will investigate the circumstances of your arrest; if you were misled or deceived in any way, or if your constitutional rights were disregarded, an experienced DUI defense attorney can use that to your advantage. The consequences of a DUI conviction in California are serious; if you face the charge now or in the future anywhere in southern California, get help right away from an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney.