Tacoma police legal adviser pleads not guilty to DUI charge

A Tacoma police legal adviser pleaded not guilty to a drunken-driving charge Tuesday.

Michael James Smith, 42, was charged in Pierce County District Court with driving under the influence and property damage hit-and-run this month, after sheriff’s deputies arrested him Sept. 26. in University Place.

The DUI count is a gross misdemeanor charge; the hit-and-run charge would be a misdemeanor.

Smith was released on his personal recognizance Tuesday. His attorney, William Kirk, declined to comment.

According to charging papers:

Smith almost hit a parked deputy in the 3800 block of Grandview Drive West, at which point the deputy started following him.

The deputy saw that the tires on Smith’s truck were almost flat, and that the vehicle looked as if it had been in a crash. The deputy stopped Smith after watching the truck straddle the centerline for several blocks.

The deputy said an open beer bottle about a quarter full was in a center cup holder, and a case of beer was in the front passenger seat. Smith’s eyes were bloodshot and watery, his head was bobbing and the deputy smelled alcohol.

Asked what he hit, Smith told the deputy with slurred speech: “I did not hit anything.” However scattered truck parts matching Smith’s vehicle were found at a damaged utility pole in the 9100 block of Cirque Drive West.

Because Smith stumbled out of the truck, the deputy feared Smith might hurt himself if he tried to take field sobriety tests. The deputy had to hold Smith to prevent him from falling.

At the Lakewood police station, Smith took Breathalyzer tests, which registered blood-alcohol readings of 0.219 and 0.214. The legal limit is 0.08.

City officials declined to comment Tuesday to a request for comment.

In a statement Sept. 30, the city said:

“The City of Tacoma has placed Tacoma Police legal adviser Michael J. Smith on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal personnel review of Mr. Smith’s actions related to his arrest on Saturday, September 26, 2015, for driving while under influence and hit and run property damage.

“Mr. Smith’s duties associated with the Tacoma Police Department have been reassigned during this process. Because this is a pending personnel matter, the City will not be providing further comment.”

Smith was hired as the police department legal adviser Jan. 17, 2006.