An official with the state Department of Health and Human Services who handles matters related to substance abuse has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving, according to court records.

Joan Smyrski, 62, of Jefferson, an associate director of treatment and recovery in the department’s substance abuse and mental health services division, was charged Sept. 25 in Strong after she was found to have a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.15 percent, according to a statement from Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Scovil. The legal blood-alcohol limit in Maine is 0.08 percent.

In exchange for her plea, entered Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington, Smyrski agreed to enter into substance abuse treatment within 60 days and refrain from using or possessing alcohol or illegal drugs, according to court documents. She must submit to future police searches and chemical tests.

Smyrski has a year to complete the terms of her agreement. If she does so, she will be able to exchange her plea for a lesser charge of driving to endanger. At that point she would be required to pay a $1,000 fine and surrender her driver’s license for 30 days.

She also would have to spend two days in jail or 96 hours in an alternative sentencing program.

Her attorney, Walter McKee, said, “She’s relieved to have this behind her, because it was obviously stressful over the last few months. … She thought it was important to take responsibility for what she did, get a second chance and move forward.”

If she fails to honor the agreement, Smyrski could face as much as 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

According to the DHHS website, Smyrski is still employed in the department. McKee said Smyrski was still employed, as far as he knew.

DHHS spokeswoman Samantha Edwards did not return calls Thursday seeking comment.

Kate McCormick can be contacted at 861-9218 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KateRMcCormick


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