Anyone familiar with California's harsh DUI laws may expect some pretty stiff penalties. This includes thousands of dollars in fines and fees, a suspended license, DUI school, and in some cases, an ignition interlock device. However, a woman recently arrested on suspicion of drunk driving has also been charged for starting a wildfire.
Renee Hogan was arrested by police on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. She was driving through Calaveras County, east of San Andreas, just after 1 p.m. along Mountain Ranch Road. After Hogan was arrested, she was surprised to learn that she would be facing additional charges related to starting a wildfire.
Weather experts expected the El Niño year to bring an above-average wildfire danger. The wildfire season for 2016 is not over yet and has already burned almost 400,000 acres. These fires can be started by any source of flame, including lightning strikes, campfires, a lit cigarette, or even intentionally through arson. In this case, police say the fire was started by sparks from a car driving on its rims.
According to investigators with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the Willow Fire was started by sparks from the rims of Hogan's 2002 Kia Rio. One driver allegedly tried to get her attention, attempting to signal Hogan that her car was on the rim, sending out sparks. The driver eventually drove in front of Hogan and blocked her path. The fire eventually spread to Hogan's own vehicle. The witness reportedly pulled Hogan from the burning vehicle. Officers arrived and arrested Hogan, saying she was “oblivious” to the fire started in her wake.
Local residents were alerted to the fire after hearing the grinding noise of the rims on asphalt. “We heard it and it sounded like it was running on a steel rim and then we immediately smelled smoke from the vehicle,” said resident Eugene Brooks.
Some residents were told to evacuate, but no one was injured and no homes were destroyed. The fire has burned about 450 acres. “Somebody better talk to that lady,” said ranch owner John Mondino. “That's all.”
According to the police report, “Hogan was arrested for driving while under the influence of a controlled substance and driving with a suspended driver license. A Drug Recognition Expert determined that Hogan was under the influence of a Narcotic Analgesic and Cannabis at the time of the incident.” She also faces a number of charges related to starting the wildfire.
If you are facing a DUI and other related charges, call an experienced DUI attorney. At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people in the East Bay charged with driving under the influence. For over 30 years, she has personally handled hundreds of cases involving people arrested for DUIs. If you have been arrested for a DUI here in the East Bay, there is still time to keep a conviction off your record, and keep your license. Contact a local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands that you don't have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.