Brandy Lerma of Boynton Beach, Florida was arrested on August 12 for allegedly driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol with her unbuckled 3-year-old child in the backseat.
Lerma, 31, faces charges for DUI and child abuse. Court records show she was released from Palm Beach County Jail on $3,000 bond. It is unclear if she has hired an attorney.
According to the police report, Lerma was seen driving a gold Chevrolet Malibu between lanes near the intersection of Haverhill and Belvedere roads. A tow-truck driver identified as Juan Martinez called the police and followed Lerma until deputies pulled her over.
“I was afraid she was going to kill someone,” Martinez, 51, wrote in his witness statement. He told police that Lerma was “zig-zagging in and out of lanes” and “nearly hit four cars from the back end. No brakes ever.”
The deputy who approached Lerma’s vehicle reported seeing a toddler standing in the backseat of the car without wearing a seatbelt.
“I was greeted with an extremely strong odor of an unknown type of alcoholic beverage,” the deputy wrote in his report. “The odor grew stronger as she spoke.”
Lerma was asked to do a series of field sobriety exercises; she was asked to walk, turn and stand on one leg, and reportedly fell on the ground twice. She reportedly consented to a Breathalyzer test and blew .200 and then .187, which is more than twice the .08 legal limit for intoxication in Florida.
When asked what she had taken by the deputies, Lerma reportedly admitted to consuming “two fireball drinks,” as well as the painkiller Percocet and the anxiety drug Xanax. Records show Lerma has been cited for not wearing a seatbelt or for driving passengers under 18 years age without making them wear a seatbelt on several occasions.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Families told news sources Monday that the agency is investigating the incident and Lerma’s children have been placed in state care.
The Florida legislature has passed some of the most demanding DUI laws in the U.S. because of all the fatalities, particularly of youth, that are the result of drunk driving. Local police department and the Florida Highway Patrol are required to use a zero tolerance standard when enforcing DUI laws, and as a consequence, the state prosecutes a large amount of DUI cases every year.
As a minimum requirement, anyone convicted of a DUI will receive a combined sentence that might include fines, probation, community service, license revocation, DUI school, psychological evaluation, vehicle impoundment, and restitution where appropriate. Jail or prison time is determined by the type of DUI offense.
First time DUI offenses that have not caused serious injury or death are usually considered misdemeanors. In most cases, first-time DUI offenders will only receive probation and other special conditions like community service, DUI school, and license suspension.