Many Californians are already aware of their rights when it comes to drinking and driving. Normally, you have a choice as to whether you want to take a blood, breath, or urine test after having been pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence. This is what is known as ‘implied consent’ (CA Vehicle Code 23612) and it means that law enforcement officials are entitled to know what your BAC (blood alcohol level) is when they arrest you. However, if you are arrested on DUI charges on federal land, you no longer have a choice as to which kind of test you will take, you will be required to take a blood alcohol test.
This is exactly what happened to a man (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) was not aware of when he visited Yosemite National Park in June of 2011. A park ranger found him seemingly intoxicated in his parked car, which was still running. (CA Vehicle Code 23152) His case has been widely publicized due to his refusal to take a blood alcohol test. His argument is that the arresting officer read him the law, but did not explain to him that refusing a blood test would land him in jail for a 6-month period of time. He even claims that he was patently misled and told that his refusal would make no difference. Though he actually pled guilty to several other federal offenses, he was taken to trial on the basis of the blood test refusal. However, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed this past Friday that he was deceived by the arresting officer. This should give pause to anyone found to be intoxicated while driving on federal lands, refusing a blood test is a crime.