Tennessee Bill Requires Drunk Drivers to Pay Child Support if Parent Killed

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill that would require people convicted of drunk driving to pay child support if they caused an accident that killed a parent of a minor child. House bill of 1834 would apply to people convicted of vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide due to intoxication when the person killed is the parent of a child under the age of 18. The money must be paid to the surviving spouse or guardian until the children reach the age of 18 or graduate from high school.

The sentencing judge determines the amount of the payment, taking into account the financial needs of the child, the financial resources of the guardian, and the standard of living to which the child is accustomed.

Defendants who are in prison and unable to pay will have one year after release to begin making payments, the legislature’s web page says. If the child is 18 years of age and not paid in full, the defendant will have to make payments until the payments are completed.

The idea for the law came from Cecilia Williams, whose son, daughter-in-law, and grandson died in a crash involving a drunk driver, TV station VTVK reported.

A crash on April 13, 2021, in Missouri killed 30-year-old Cordell Williams, his wife Lacey, 25, and their 4-month-old son Cordell II. The law is called “Bentley’s Law” after one of Williams’ surviving grandchildren. The other surviving child is Lacey.

Cecilia William’s cousin, Diane Sutton, lives in Tennessee and has promoted the idea in her state, according to WTVC.

Lawyer Jay Kennamer of Chattanooga said raising the money could be difficult because defendants may not have the means to pay child support. However, he believes that the bill provides for fair punishment.

“If you get behind the wheel drunk and kill someone in an accident as a result of intoxication, it’s predictable damage because you affected not only them, you affected their entire family,” he says.

Williams said: “They will always remember, this is what I did with the family, you know, and it will soak into them. I can’t do it again. You know, I support children who are not mine.”

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