SAULT STE. MARIE - Due to a technicality, a drunken driving charge was dismissed against the Gladstone State Police Post commander on Wednesday in Chippewa County District Court.
Lt. William H. Smith, 43, was arrested eight weeks ago in Chippewa County for allegedly operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. He was arrested after a one-vehicle accident.
The court case was dismissed during a pretrial and motion hearing on Wednesday, explained Daryl Vizina, Cheboygan County prosecutor who was assigned to represent the state in the case.
Presiding over the two-hour evidentiary hearing was Judge Mark Luoma from Schoolcraft County District Court. He ruled the case be dismissed due to the technicality of an invalid search warrant, said Vizina.
Vizina explained to the Daily Press on Thursday that on the evening Smith was arrested, officers obtained a search warrant to obtain further evidence - including a blood test.
Dispatch directed police to obtain the search warrant from a former Chippewa County court employee who was no longer serving as magistrate at the time, said Vizina. The former magistrate had been relieved of her duties five weeks prior due to mental health issues, he said.
"Dispatch sent the officers to the wrong place to sign a warrant," said Vizina.
Because the former court employee was not legally authorized to sign and execute the search warrant, any information police obtained under the document during the investigation could not be considered as evidence, Vizina said.
"Blood test results were not admissible and could not be used in court," he noted.
According to test results, Smith's blood alcohol content of .13 was "clearly above" the drunk driving standard of .08, the prosecutor said.
"This is a disappointing result," Vizina commented about the case being dismissed because of a technicality. "This contributes to public distrust in law enforcement," he added.
Smith was driving alone in a personal vehicle when he was involved in a one-car crash in Chippewa County on July 7, according to the Chippewa County Sheriff Department.
Following investigation into the crash, Smith was booked into the county jail shortly before 5 a.m. that Saturday. He was later released the same day on a personal recognizance bond.
After waiving his arraignment, he was officially charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, a 93-day misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500.
Smith has been commander at the Gladstone Post since April 1. He has been on paid leave since his arrest, according to Tiffany Brown of the public affairs department at the Michigan State Police Headquarters in Lansing.
"First Lt. William Smith, he's currently on paid leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation by the department," Brown said Thursday afternoon.