SAN FRANCISCO -- The State Bar Court of California has placed Chico attorney Heather Michelle Salvador on two years' probation.
The Nov. 18, 2016, ruling was the result of Salvador’s guilty plea to three criminal counts of driving under the influence. According to court documents, Salvador’s impairment was due to drug use on all three occasions.
Salvador’s first offense occurred Oct. 15, 2010, when the Chico Police Department received a report of a minivan driving erratically through the streets and “even onto the sidewalk.” The car was found by police outside an area day school where a child exited the vehicle. The arresting officer approached Salvador who said her poor driving was due to fatigue. However, Salvador eventually admitted she had taken a muscle relaxant and opiate for back pain. The attorney initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in February 2011 but changed her plea to guilty in November 2011.
On Oct. 29, 2010, Salvador was stopped by officers responding to a call involving a potentially intoxicated driver. The officers allegedly watched Salvador weave in traffic and hit a curb with her tires. When they pulled the attorney over to investigate, she said had been texting while driving (an act confirmed by the officers), but her speech was reportedly slurred and slow. The police found prescription opiates and benzodiazepines in her vehicle which she had admitted to taking.
A field sobriety test was conducted which Salvador failed to pass. Salvador again plead not guilty in September 2011 before changing her plea to guilty that November.
The attorney’s final DUI incident was May 2011. The Chico Police Department responded to an accident in which Salvador had allegedly crashed into a parked truck. The responding officer watched the attorney place two pills in her mouth that she said were melatonin tablets. Salvador later told the officer that she had been taking Clonazepam and Seroquil.
Salvador entered into the State Bar Court’s Alternative Discipline Program (ADP) and sought help for her substance abuse issues from the State Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP). In addition, she entered into a pre-trial stipulation which became a mitigating factor in her discipline proceedings.
The aggravating circumstances taken into consideration include the attorney’s multiple acts of misconduct and the significant harm caused to the public.
During Salvador’s two-year probation, the attorney must submit quarterly reports of her business dealings to the Office of Probation. Any updates to her personal or professional situations also must be provided to the office within 10 business days.
Salvador must take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). Failure to pass the MPRE or adhere to any of the terms of her probation will result in a one-year suspension without hearing. Salvador will be responsible for covering all court costs, which at the time of sentencing totaled $4,730. The costs are subject to increase, in which case Salvador will need to pay the additional fees.
The California State Bar was established in 1927 by the state’s legislature and is governed by 19 trustees. The State Bar Court added appointed full-time judges in 1989. Court documents for all State Bar Court of California cases can be found online at calbar.ca.gov.