Pantuliano, 29, is being charged with DUI manslaughter, two counts of DUI with injury, and three counts of DUI property damage. She is being held without bond. News sources did not name an attorney for her.
According to the arrest report, the alleged crash happened on April 8 at around 8 p.m. along NW 79th Avenue in Tamarac. Pantuliano was reportedly driving a Cadillac sedan when she stopped at a red light at the intersection of West Commercial Boulevard. She allegedly began driving before the light turned green and that caused her to crash into Russel, 73, who was driving a Toyota Scion XB.
The impact of the crash pushed Russell’s Toyota into a third car, a Ford Fiesta that was driving south. Pantuliano then allegedly drove onto the property of a 7-Eleven gas station, knocking down a palm tree and damaging landscaping before halting.
Broward Sheriff’s Office said Russell had a steady green light at the time of the crash. He was critically injured and died from blunt force injuries a few days later. The driver of the Ford Fiesta was not injured.
When questioned by investigators, Pantuliano’s reportedly said she had drunk “less than one glass of champagne” before driving. Police tested her blood alcohol level an hour after the crash and it was .20, more than twice the legal limit in the state of Florida. She was tested again seven hours later and her level was .11.
According to the Broward State Attorney’s Office, Pantuliano has a prior DUI conviction from eight years ago. This will likely affect the outcome of the case.
Florida has some of the most demanding DUI laws in the country because of all the deaths that have been caused by drunk driving in the Sunshine State. Florida Highway Patrol and local police departments are required to enforce DUI laws with a zero tolerance standard.
First time DUI offenses that don’t involve serious physical injury or death are classified as misdemeanors. The penalties in these types of cases usually don’t include any jail time, but may include probation, community service, driver’s license suspension, and classes on DUI, among other things.
DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and/or 15 years of probation, and $10,000 in fines. The crime is committed when a person drives a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, has a blood alcohol level higher than .08, and either directly or indirectly causes the death of another person.
As a minimum requirement, a judge is required to impose a mandatory sentence of 124 months in prison to anyone convicted of DUI manslaughter. Additional penalties include: community service, permanent driver’s license suspension, vehicle impoundment, and a DUI substance abuse course.