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RogerHernandezBookingPhoto.JPGBy Jim Sanders

A California lawmaker was arrested this week for suspicion of drunken driving.

Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernandez was arrested in the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza Hotel after he failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a breathalyzer test, Concord Police Chief Guy Swanger said.

Officers stopped Hernandez's white Toyota Camry about 2 a.m. Tuesday after they observed the car weaving from side to side in its lane on Concord Avenue, then turn suddenly onto Meridian Park Boulevard without signaling, Swanger said.

Hernandez, a first-term assemblyman who serves as the Democratic Caucus's assistant majority whip, was taken intially to the Concord Police Department for a blood test and later booked at the Contra Costa County jail in Martinez, Swanger said.

The West Covina lawmaker said Thursday that he had been visiting a friend in the Bay Area shortly before the incident occurred. He said he is confident that test results will show he was not drunk.

"After dinner I had a couple of drinks and because of the late hour I decided to stay in the town of Concord," Hernandez said.

He said police followed him into his hotel parking lot, told him he had failed to signal when he made the turn and administered a field sobriety test. Hernandez said he told officers that he didn't believe a breathalyzer test was necessary.

"I'd only had a couple of drinks and I had safely, without putting anybody in danger, made my (way) to the hotel," he said Thursday.

Hernandez said he was arrested, booked on suspicion of driving under the influence and "was kept for several hours."

"At this point there is no proof that I tested above the legal limit," he said.

Hernandez said that he had "two, maybe three glasses of wine over the course of a period longer than four hours after dinner. I was not drunk. ... I felt very clear and coherent. I felt very comfortable driving."

Asked if he was alone, Hernandez said, "I won't get into that."

Police reports said that Hernandez, the driver, was accompanied by a 29-year-old woman who was not taken into custody.

Hernandez said he believes the officer did not have probable cause to pull him over because he believes he did signal before entering the parking lot.

Swanger disputed Hernandez's view that officers had no reason to approach him, saying, "I am firmly convinced that there was probable cause to stop and arrest him for driving under the influence. And you can quote me."

Hernandez, 36, expressed sadness about the incident Thursday, but said he expects to be vindicated.

"I want my constituents to know that I'm very regretful for this incident because it's embarrassing to my community and it's unfortunate that negative press will follow as a result. I am very confident, however, that the results will be in my favor."

Hernandez is the fourth Assembly member to be arrested or cited for misdemeanor offenses in the past year. Others were Martin Garrick, R-Solana Beach, for drunken driving; Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, for illegally taking a gun into an airport; and Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, for shoplifting from Neiman Marcus.

PHOTO CREDIT: Concord Police Department Booking Photo



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