Barbara Brummette, of St. Petersburg, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI)and child neglect after Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies allegedly discovered her over the weekend, passed out in her car. Though the car was parked and apparently turned off, the keys were still in the ignition and a child was inside the car, according to authorities.
According to the arrest report, Brummette was unable to perform any roadside sobriety tests. The arrest report give no detail about the age or gender of the child. It does not indicate whether or not Brummette was related to the child but does state that the child was “drenched in sweat” when fire rescue workers arrived to remove the child from the car.
Under Florida law, driving under the influence can occur even if the car is parked. In general, the driver must be in actual physical control of the vehicle while intoxicated and can be charged even if the engine is turned off. The prosecutor may not even need to prove that the person behind the wheel of the car drove at all. There have been multiple cases in which someone was found “sleeping it off” with keys not in the ignition but was still charged and convicted of DUI.
The child neglect counts arise when caregivers are found to be driving under the influence with children because of the caregiver’s duty to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health. Under Florida law, neglect of a child may be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident that could reasonably be expected to result in serious physical injury, or a substantial risk of death, to a child. While the DUI may be a misdemeanor (depending on Brummette’s driving history), the child neglect charge is a third degree felony.