Sometimes innocent people can be impacted by the actions of drunk and negligent drivers without even being on the road. That was the case for residents of a townhouse complex in Hainesville, Illinois, when a man crashed his SUV into one of the homes in October. The resulting fire destroyed two homes and seriously damaged another.
The defendant appeared in a Lake County courtroom early this month, where he pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of an accident that involved property damage. The 32-year-old Wisconsin man is still in jail, with bail set at $250,000.
According to authorities, the defendant was driving on Hainesville Road in the early morning hours of Oct. 25 when his vehicle jumped a curb, knocked down a sign and continued more than 500 feet into a townhome on Patriot Drive. As a result of the crash, a gas meter in the home caught fire. As noted, three of the six units in the building were damaged or destroyed. Amazingly, none of the people in the complex were injured.
Making matters worse was the fact that, according to law enforcement, the negligent driver left the scene. He was discovered some two hours after the collision hiding under a truck. He tried to flee from officers but was caught. If the defendant is found guilty, he could face as many as six years behind bars. Although the usual maximum penalty for aggravated DUI is three years, prosecutors say the potential for twice that sentence is because of his criminal history in both Illinois and Wisconsin.
In addition to the criminal charges, the defendant is likely to face civil action from the people whose homes were damaged or gutted. While thankfully no one was physically harmed, families who have lost their homes and possessions still have a long healing and rebuilding process ahead of them. They have every right to require the driver responsible to compensate them so that they can begin to rebuild their lives.
Source: Daily Herald, “Man pleads not guilty to DUI after car ends up in Hainesville townhouse” Lee Filas, Dec. 06, 2013