Bill to make drunk drivers who kill their parents pay child support to TN governor’s office
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Tennessee bill that aims to hold drunk drivers accountable by requiring DUI offenders to pay child support if their actions result in the death of a parent has passed the state legislature unanimously.
House Bill 1834, also known as “Bentley’s Law,” passed the Tennessee Senate on Wednesday and is now going to Governor Bill Lee’s office for an expected signing into law. Under the law, an impaired driver convicted of driving homicide will be ordered to pay compensation in the form of child support to each of the victim’s children until they turn 18. years and graduating from high school.
If the defendant is incarcerated and cannot pay, the defendant has one year after release to begin payments. If the child turns 18 but has not been paid in full, payments will continue until the child is fully paid, the bill says.
The court determines an amount “reasonable and necessary for the maintenance of the child of the victim”, taking into account factors such as the financial needs and resources of the surviving parent and the standard of living to which the child is accustomed, according to the bill.
Bentley’s law was proposed by Cecilia Williams of Missouri after her 30-year-old son, her fiancé and their 4-month-old boy were all killed in a DUI accident in 2021. The accident left their other two sons, Bentley , 5, and orphaned 3-year-old Mason and Williams began lobbying for the law believing the man who caused the accident should be held financially responsible.
“I believe with all my heart that’s the one thing that’s going to help people not be a second, third or fourth offender. Because that seems to be a huge problem everywhere,” Williams told the stations. FOX television last year.
Every day, about 28 people in the United States die in drunk driving crashes, which equates to one person every 52 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Traffic drives past a memorial to a family killed by a drunk driver in a file image taken near Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo by Steven Clevenger/Corbis via Getty Images)
After the bill passed unanimously in the Senate, Williams said Wednesday she “just broke down.”
“To me, that’s fantastic because if you know something about the legislative process, it just doesn’t happen that fast,” Cecilia Williams said Wednesday in a Facebook Live video.
“Families are going to get some kind of justice. Families are going to get the compensation they deserve,” Williams continued.
State lawmakers changed the bill’s title to “Law of Ethan, Hailey and Bentley,” which now also includes the names of the children of a deceased Tennessee police officer.
Nicholas Galinger, a 38-year-old rookie officer, was inspecting a manhole cover leaking water late one night in February 2019 when he was killed in a fatal hit-and-run. A woman was later convicted of drunk driving homicide in her death and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Republican State Rep. Mark Hall, who sponsored the bill, pledged to “do everything in our power to hold accountable those who choose to do harm.”
“As I promised, I will do what it takes to protect the future of our most precious resource, our children,” Hall said Wednesday. “I am proud of our leadership, both in the House and the Senate, to move this bill forward to the point where it is heading to our Governor Bill Lee for his signature.”
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.