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Riverside city councilwoman pleads guilty to DUI charge, sentenced to probation

Clarissa Perez Cervantes
Riverside County Sheriff's Department
Clarissa Perez Cervantes

Riverside City Councilwoman Clarissa Perez Cervantes pleaded guilty today to misdemeanor driving under the influence and was immediately sentenced to three years' probation.

Cervantes entered the plea during her arraignment at the Banning Justice Center for her July arrest.

Along with probation, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sylwia Luttrell ordered the councilwoman to spend 57 days in a sheriff's work release program, which only requires proof of employment, volunteer work or full-time enrollment in a vocational or other school.

The defendant's attorney, Paul Grech, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Cervantes was stopped by an officer while speeding on southbound Interstate 10, near Eighth Street, in the predawn hours of July 1.

After the officer detected that she was inebriated, the councilwoman was taken into custody without incident. She was released from the Smith Correctional Facility after posting a $5,000 a short time later.

Cervantes had a prior misdemeanor DUI conviction from 2015, according to court records.

The one-term councilwoman was elected in 2021 and represents Ward 2. She is vying for the Assembly seat currently occupied by her sister, Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Corona, who will be termed out of office next year.

Assemblyman Bill Essayli, R-Norco, a former prosecutor, said that Clarissa Cervantes' conviction serves to reinforce the importance of House Resolution 51, which he proposed earlier this year.

"Clarissa Cervantes pled guilty to her second DUI criminal conviction while still seeking to become a member of the state Assembly,'' Essayli said. "This only underscores the urgent need to pass House Resolution 51, which would prohibit a member of the Assembly from using a taxpayer-funded car... following a DUI conviction."  

Essayli said a DUI conviction should automatically invalidate privileges to "a taxpayer-funded car."  

"It endangers the public and exposes the state to significant liability,'' he said. "DUI is a horrific crime that kills over 1,000 Californians a year."

The assemblyman also pointed to state Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine, as another example of why Resolution 51 should be on the front burner.   

Min was sentenced Tuesday to three years' probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor DUI for a May 2 arrest by the CHP in Sacramento. He was driving a Toyota Camry at night without headlights less than two miles from the Capitol Building at the time.

Resolution 51, which would mandate that any member of the Assembly who is arrested and charged with DUI lose -- until his or her case is resolved -- the privilege of using a "pool vehicle'' provided at no cost to lawmakers while they're in Sacramento.

The resolution would also require that an Assembly member be prohibited from access to pool cars for a minimum of three years following a conviction.

The measure has been awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Rules for more than a month. The Legislature is due to adjourn on Sept. 14.

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Article Topic Follows: Crime

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