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November 9, 2013

Traverse City attorney pleads guilty to drunken driving

TRAVERSE CITY — A prominent Traverse City attorney could face disciplinary action after he pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge.

Authorities stopped Kenneth Petterson, 53, on Oct. 26. A Grand Traverse County sheriff’s deputy saw him drive through a parking lot in an apparent attempt to avoid a traffic light at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Holiday Road.

A breath test taken at Grand Traverse County’s jail found Petterson’s blood-alcohol content was .15, almost twice the legal limit of .08 for driving. Petterson pleaded guilty Wednesday in 86th District Court and must report his conviction within 14 days to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.

“I frankly don’t know why you want to report on this,” Petterson initially told a Record-Eagle reporter when asked for comment.

Petterson is an attorney at Traverse City’s Smith & Johnson law firm and served or serves on numerous local boards and organizations, including a term as president of the Grand Traverse-Leelanau-Antrim County Bar Association. He’s currently representing Ryan Gubbins, the owner of drug and alcohol testing service who pleaded guilty to providing false test results to 86th District Court.

Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission Assistant Deputy Cynthia Bullington said disciplinary action in drunken driving cases is judged on whether the attorney can provide “capable representation” to their clients. She said the commission may choose no action, a confidential “admonishment,” place the attorney on a form of probation or begin a public disciplinary proceeding.

The police report states Petterson told the deputy he had “one glass of wine” and lists no prior drunken driving incidents.

Petterson said he doesn’t anticipate the commission’s decision will affect his status to practice law. He said he didn’t ask for “accommodations” from the prosecutor and will learn from his mistake.

“Everybody has to be very aware and exercise better judgment,” he said.

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