Hall of Famer Bruce Smith admits to driving drunk in Virginia

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Former NFL star Bruce Smith pleaded guilty to drunken driving Thursday, saying he wanted to own up to his mistake and strive to be an asset to the community.

Smith, 46, was fined $1,000 and given a 90-day suspended sentence Thursday in a plea agreement with Virginia Beach prosecutors, who dropped charges of speeding and refusal to take a breath test. Smith also must complete an alcohol safety program, and his driving privileges will be limited for one year.

Smith's restricted license will allow him to drive only for work, medical appointments, to visit his elderly mother, to attend the alcohol program and to take his children to and from medical appointments and school.

The NFL's all-time sacks leader, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, had been convicted of the drunken-driving charge in General District Court. He appealed to Circuit Court, and his retrial had been set for Thursday morning.

In Virginia, a person convicted in General District court can appeal to Circuit Court and receive a retrial. Smith appealed, and his retrial had been set for Thursday morning.

"The risk versus reward was not in our favor," Smith told reporters outside the courtroom. He said he had a 50-50 chance of beating the drunken-driving charge but still would have to contend with the other charges.

"As I have said, I was having some wine at dinner with friends," Smith said of the night he was arrested. "I thought it was in my best interests to take ownership of that evening."

Smith told reporters that he has hired a former state trooper to accompany him when he meets friends for dinner in the future.

Putting the matter behind him, Smith said, would allow him to "concentrate on being an asset to the community."

Smith was stopped on Interstate 264 in May and was charged with DUI after failing field sobriety tests. His attorney, Larry Cardon, said at Smith's first trial in July that the 19-year NFL veteran's 11 knee surgeries made it difficult for him to walk a straight line heel-to-toe and stand on one leg for 30 seconds.

Smith, who played for the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins and appeared in 11 Pro Bowls, had two previous DUI arrests. A 1997 conviction was later dismissed, and he was acquitted in another case in 2003.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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