Robert R. Hart, Jr., Attorney at Law
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Alleged drunk driver accused of starting major fire

Police in Ohio have charged a 36-year-old man with driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs after he allegedly lost control of his pickup truck and caused a major fire to break out in Sidney on the evening of April 17. Media reports indicate that firefighters from every fire department in Shelby County were called in to tackle the four-alarm fire. The accident took place on North Ohio Avenue at approximately 11:00 p.m.

Police say that the man lost control of his pickup truck as he was heading Southbound on North Ohio Avenue in the vicinity of West Poplar Street. The man is said to have told police officers that he swerved to avoid striking a pedestrian and cyclist. The fire is believed to have been caused by a gas line that was damaged by the man's vehicle. Bystanders rushed to the damaged pickup truck and pulled the man clear before the flames engulfed the vehicle. He escaped the accident without injury according to reports.

The building, which housed a ceramics business, was empty at the time of the crash, and first responders acted quickly to evacuate those living nearby. One firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the blaze, which took four hours to bring under control. Police claim that the man refused to submit to a breath test and acted belligerently both at the scene and after being taken into custody.

The penalties for drunk driving can be severe in Ohio, and motorists often react badly when faced with the prospect of fines, jail time and a loss of their driving privileges. Experienced prosecutors will likely have encountered defendants who acted uncharacteristically after being taken into custody by police, and criminal defense attorneys may bring up mitigating factors such as a prior history of good behavior and genuine remorse during plea negotiations.

Source: The Sidney Daily News, "Fire engulfs downtown building", Melanie Speicher, April 18, 2017

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