Bill: Drunk Drivers Who Kill Parents Must Compensate Kids

Bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Bill Lee in Tennessee
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2022 8:47 AM CDT
Bill: Drunk Drivers Who Kill Parents Must Pay Child Support
Janet Hinds, charged in the hit-and-run death of Chattanooga Police Officer Nicholas Galinger, is shown at the Hamilton County Courts Building in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Feb. 25, 2019.   (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

Drunk drivers who kill the parent of a minor will be forced to pay child support until the child reaches the age of 18 under a new law to be signed in Tennessee. House Bill 1834 unanimously passed the state Senate on Wednesday after gaining unanimous support in the state House on Feb. 28, and is expected to be signed by Gov. Bill Lee. It requires a person convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide or vehicular homicide due to intoxication who killed a parent to pay restitution to each minor child until they reach the age of 18 and have graduated high school, USA Today reports.

"When we have that type of reckless endangerment that results in death then we have an obligation to send a message," Democratic Rep. GA Hardaway says, per WREG. "It's not just about the legalities, but it’s about the moralities." The bill was the brainchild of Cecilia Williams, who cares for two grandchildren, Bentley and Mason; their parents died in a fiery crash after their vehicle was rear-ended by a drunk driver in Missouri last April, per People. Children "deserve to get that compensation because you're talking about raising children that their parents are no longer here," Williams said last year, per CBS News. She added the bill came out of Bentley's desire "to help other kids."

Initially called "Bentley's Law," the bill was amended to "Ethan's, Hailey's, and Bentley's Law" before passage, to refer to the children of state police officer Nicholas Galinger, who was killed by a drunk driver in a 2019 hit-and-run while inspecting a manhole cover, per WTVC and USA Today. The amount of child support to be paid would be determined by a court on a case-by-case basis. Incarcerated defendants who are unable to pay would be required to begin payments within a year of release, per USA Today. Williams hopes to have the law passed in all 50 states. Similar legislation has been introduced in Missouri, Oklahoma, Illinois, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania, per People. (Read more Tennessee stories.)

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