Tennessee Passes Bill Requiring Drunk Drivers Who Kill Parents of a Minor to Pay Child Support

by Chris Haney
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On Wednesday, Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill that would require convicted drunk drivers who kill parents of minors to pay child support. In cases of intoxication and aggravated vehicular homicide, the new law would hold those convicted responsible for financial support for the victim’s children.

The legislation, House Bill 1834, has now passed through the Tennessee Senate. The new bill would make drunk drivers in Tennessee pay restitution until the victim’s children turn 18 years old or graduate high school. The payments would work similarly to traditional child support. In most child support situations, a parent pays the primary caregiver until they become a legal adult at 18.

What You Need To Know

  • Tennessee legislators passed a bill that makes drunk drivers pay child support if they kill a minor’s parents
  • The new bill would hold drunk drivers accountable until the minors become legal adults at 18
  • Traditional child support laws will help determine the amount paid
  • Both the Tennessee House and Senate passed the bill unanimously

Further Details of the Tennessee Drunk Drivers Bill

According to reports, the state will determine the child’s financial needs, which will help determine what the drunk drivers will pay. The court system will be responsible for determining the amount on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the children’s circumstances, and taking the surviving parent or guardian’s resources into account, the state will choose the child support amount. Additionally, the standard of living of the child is used to will also be a factor in deciding payments.

In cases where Tennessee drunk drivers go to jail over the offense, the court system will put the payments on hold. Offenders will have one year after their release to begin paying child support instead. The state’s House already unanimously passed the new bill before the Tennessee Senate passed it earlier this week. State Rep. Mark White commented on the new bill to WREG-TV on Thursday.

“A parent is responsible for the education and upbringing of that child,” White explained to the outlet. “And when that parent is removed from the home over something so, in my opinion, foolish where we drink and drive and take the life of an innocent then someone needs to be responsible for the upbringing of those children.”

Tennesse Bill Renamed for Children Who Lost Their Father to Drunk Driving Accident

The original bill was known as “Bentley’s Law,” which got its name from a child in Missouri who lost their parents because of a drunk driver. Legislators moved to rename the bill after a Tennessee family who dealt with a similar incident.

Drunk driver Janet Hinds struck and killed 38-year-old Tennessee police officer Nicholas Galinger in 2019. According to local reports, Hinds was intoxicated when she hit Galinger with her car and killed the officer. Reports shared that Galinger was on the job investigating an overflowing manhole cover. That’s when Hinds hit him from behind while traveling above the speed limit. The courts sentenced Hinds to 11 years in prison for the deadly hit-and-run incident.

Galinger had two children at the time of his death – Ethan and Haile. Lawmakers chose to include them in the new bill when adding an amendment to rename it “Ethan, Haile, and Bentley’s Law.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drunk drivers kill 28 people on average every day in the U.S. Each year, that equals more than 10,000 deaths due to intoxicated drivers. The NHTSA reports that drunk-driving accidents make up around 30% of all traffic-related fatalities.

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