On June 10, 2011, Sean Harrington was observed sitting in his car by a federal park ranger in a nonpublic area of Yosemite National Park. His car lights were on and his engine was running. When the ranger approached his vehicle, Sean was allegedly not cooperative. The ranger said appeared drunk, argumentative and upset.
Harrington refused to take a field sobriety test. He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and taken to the police station. At the police station, Harrington again refused any blood tests. As a result, the jailer and a federal park ranger read him his rights under California law.
Because Harrington was arrested in a national park, he was misinformed when the officers read him his rights under California law. He should have been read his rights under federal law because his alleged crime occurred on federal land. Harrington appealed his conviction for failing to submit to a blood test and it was reversed. This was a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights because he was denied due process.1
Differences between State and Federal Rights after DUI Arrest
State and federal law handle refusals to submit to a blood test very differently. According to California law, if you refuse or fail to complete a breath test or other chemical test to determine alcohol and/or drug content of your blood, you could face the following consequences:
- Your driving privilege will be suspended for one year or revoked for two or three years;
- It can be used against you in court; and
- You can be imprisoned and/or fined if the arrest results in a DUI conviction.2
The consequences for refusing to submit to a blood test under federal law are much more severe. California law only punishes the refusal if you are later found guilty of DUI. However, according to C.F.R. Section 4.23(c)(2), your refusal can be charged as a separate offense.
Under federal law, if you decline to take a blood test, you could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and fined $5,000.3
Harrington was never read the federal rights by any of the officers present during his arrest. In fact, on three difference occasions he was only read his state rights, which were not applicable given that his arrest happened in federal jurisdiction at a national park.
What Does the Harrington Case Mean for You?
By not being read the proper rights, Harrington was denied due process. Had he been told that refusing to take the blood alcohol test could result in a separate, more serious charge, perhaps he would have complied.
As this case shows, being read the proper rights is very important. It gives you a clear understanding of the consequences you may face after an arrest. It is completely unjust to be convicted of a crime if you are not told what the consequences of the crime are.
If you are arrested, the arresting officers are required by law to read you your rights regardless if they are state or federal officials. Where the alleged crime occurs will determine which rights you should be read. If the crime occurred on federal land, you must be read your rights for the crime according to federal law.
Examples of federal land include:
- National parks;
- National wildlife refuges;
- Military reservations; and
- Some forests.4
Let the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Help You Today
If you are being charged with a crime, it is vital that you were read the appropriate rights when you were arrested. This will have a dramatic effect on your case moving forward and being read the wrong rights can lead to the charges being dropped. Our skilled attorneys at Wallin and Klarich have been successfully defending our clients against state and federal charges for over 30 years
With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, one of our knowledgeable attorneys is available to help you get through this difficult time.
Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.
1. [ http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2014/04/18/12-10526.pdf]↩
4. [ http://nationalatlas.gov/mld/fedlanp.html]↩