Riverside City Councilwoman Dad DUI Conviction Dismissed Just Before Latest Arrest

When Riverside City Councilwoman Clarissa Perez Cervantes was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol on July 1, she was only 42 days removed from having a 2015 DUI conviction dismissed after she told a judge, “Each day I carry remorse and promise to never repeat those actions.”

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That statement was contained in a petition for dismissal Cervantes, 32, filed on May 9 in Superior Court. Judge Timothy J. Hollenhorst granted the request 10 days later.

In that case, she was arrested by the California Highway Patrol at 2:20 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, on the eastbound 60 Freeway at the Frederick Street off-ramp in Moreno Valley, about a mile from the apartment she listed on the citation as her address.

Cervantes pleaded guilty to DUI with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or greater and admitted to a sentencing enhancement that states she had a BAC level of 0.15 or greater — almost twice the legal limit — according to the plea agreement. She was sentenced to three years probation and 10 days of electronic monitoring, ordered to attend a three-month first-time DUI offender’s class and was fined $2,541.

Cervantes wrote that she was going through a difficult time when she was arrested in 2014 after a night spent attending a concert with friends.

“I regrettably made the worst decision of my life when I was in my early 20’s, which was to drive after drinking one evening. At the time, I was coming out of a domestic abusive relationship that had severely impacted my mental and physical health,” Cervantes said in the petition.

“An expungement will help me in regards to access to employment opportunities, housing and higher education programs, ensuring that I have an equal opportunity of being considered in any pursuit and pathway that can have a significant impact on my life, my daughter’s my family and the greater community,” Cervantes wrote. “… (I) would like to explore federal and state positions in transportation planning and government.”

The status of the expungement was unclear this week. Although an expungement would allow Cervantes to tell a prospective employer that she does not have any criminal convictions, the documents attached to the case remained publicly available Monday.

An expungement is not bulletproof. The District Attorney’s Office still can use the conviction against Cervantes while prosecuting her or seek a longer sentence if she’s convicted, said John Hall, a DA’s spokesman. Two DUI convictions within 10 years could bring a sentence of 90 days to one year and a two-year suspension of a driver’s license, according to the Vehicle Code.

Cervantes, in a statement provided Sunday to the Southern California News Group, said she regretted her actions on Saturday. She was arrested at about 1:23 a.m. on the southbound 10 Freeway at 8th Street in Banning. She is due in court on Aug. 30.

“Last night, I made an irresponsible decision that I deeply regret. I take full responsibility, and I want to apologize to my family, my community, and the residents of the district that I represent,” Cervantes said. She did not mention her previous arrest in her statement.

Cervantes represents Ward 2, which encompasses the areas of Sycamore Canyon, Canyon Crest, UC Riverside and Eastside. She is running for the 58th District state Assembly seat to replace her sister, Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes.

Councilmember Ronaldo Fierro, who is running against Cervantes, declined to comment on the arrest. Cervantes could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday, and Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson and the other five Riverside city councilmembers did not respond to requests for comment.

City spokesman Phil Pitchford said the city is not commenting on Cervantes’ arrest other than to say it “appears to have occurred on her own time.”

But unlike members of the city’s boards and commissions, the city’s ethics code applies to the mayor and councilmembers “at all times during their term of office as public officials of the City of Riverside,” the document states.

Any person who lives, works or attends school in Riverside can bring an ethics complaint about something that happens outside the city. But Cervantes’ position representing Ward 2 on the City Council, which she ascended to in 2021, does not appear to be in jeopardy. Automatic expulsion comes only with a felony conviction. None of the punishments for violating the city’s ethics code includes removal.

Click here to read the full article in the Press Enterprise

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