Two Different Arrests in Three Days in Ocala for DUI and Child Neglect

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

Over the span of a few days in Ocala, two different women were arrested for driving under the influence while having their children in the car with them.  In one instance, the children were injured as a result.  On Saturday, April 26, 2014, 28-year-old Erica Peluso crashed in to a tree while her BAC was nearly three times the legal limit.  Her two-year-old autistic child was in her lap at the time of the accident and her 6 year old was in the back seat.  Both children got injured in the accident with minor head injuries and lacerations.  In a separate incident, Gabrielle Trullender, 26, was stopped by police after being seen nearly hitting a concrete median and swerving while driving.  Her 2 year old was found in the car and she failed field sobriety tests.  Both of these women have been charged with driving under the influence with a minor in the car and child neglect.

In Florida, driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol while there is a minor in the car carries a heavier sentence than a DUI charge without a child in the car.  When there is a minor in the car on a first offense DUI, the fine is increased from $500-$1000 to $1000-$2000 and the amount of possible jail time from up to 6 months to up to 9 months.  There are similar additions to the sentence for second or third offenses.

What ends up being a much more serious offense when one is caught driving with a child in the car, especially when it is a younger child that they owe a duty of care to (as opposed to a 21 year old driving drunk with a 17 year old in the car), is a possible child neglect charge, such as the ones these two women got over the weekend in Ocala.

Child neglect is a felony where an adult fails to provide care, supervision and services necessary to provide for that child’s physical or mental well-being.  This could cover many different things, such as failing to keep a child clean and well fed, leaving a young child alone, or failing to provide safe housing.  It is also often used in DUI cases where a parent has their child in the car, where it is acting in a way where it is foreseeable that the child could be injured as a result.

In cases where there is neglect alone, but no injury, child neglect is a third degree felony.  An example of this would be in Monday’s case, where the mother was pulled over for drinking and driving with a child in the car, but there was no accident or injury.  The sentence for third degree felony is up to 5 years in prison.

On the other hand, if a child is injured because of neglect, such as in Saturday’s accident where the two children got serious cuts and minor head injuries, the charge is a second-degree felony.  The sentence there is much harsher and could mean up to 15 years in prison.