TN Advances Bill Requiring DUI Drivers Pay Child Support to Fatal Crash Victims’ Children

DUI Crash Kills Three in Houston
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A Tennessee bill that would require individuals convicted of vehicular homicide due to driving under the influence to pay child maintenance to their victim’s children advanced unanimously through the Senate on Wednesday.

House Bill 1834, which passed the Senate by a vote of 32-0 after unanimously passing the House in February, would also apply to those convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide. Child maintenance is to be paid until the victim’s child or children have turned 18 years old and graduated high school or until the child’s class has graduated. Courts will “determine an amount that is reasonable and necessary for the maintenance of the victim’s child” based on the following and other potential circumstances:

(1) The financial needs and resources of the child;

(2) The financial resources and needs of the surviving parent or guardian of the child, including the state if the child is in the custody of the department of children’s services; and

(3) The standard of living to which the child is accustomed.

Defendants ordered to pay child maintenance who are incarcerated and unable to pay will be given a year following their release before payments kick in. If the child maintenance is scheduled to terminate and the defendant has not made all necessary payments, payments will continue until the victim’s children are compensated in full.

Wednesday’s vote included an amendment to the bill’s original name, “Bentley’s Law,” which is now dubbed “Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law.”

WNYW reported:

Bentley’s Law was proposed by Cecilia Williams of Missouri after her 30-year-old son, his fiancé, and their 4-month-old were all killed in a DUI crash in 2021. The crash left their two other sons, Bentley, 5, and Mason, 3, orphaned, and Williams began pushing for the law in the belief that the man who caused the crash should be held financially responsible.

Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) proposed an amendment Wednesday that added the names of fallen Chatanooga Police Officer Nicholas Galinger’s children: Ethan and Hailey, WFAA reported.

According to the outlet:

Janet Hinds hit and killed Galinger while he was inspecting an overflowing manhole on Hamill Road in Chattanooga. A jury convicted Hinds of vehicular homicide by intoxication, reckless driving and leaving the scene of a crash in September 2021, and a judge later sentenced her to 11 years in prison.

Williams took to Facebook Live following the bill’s advancement Wednesday and rejoiced, according to Fox5 New York.

“For me, this is fantastic because if you know anything about the legislative process, it just doesn’t happen that quick,” she said.

The bill is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee (R).


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