A bill making its way through the Tennessee legislature would require drunk drivers who kill parents of minor children to pay child support. Known as “Ethan, Haile, and Bentley’s Law,” the bill passed unanimously in the Senate and House earlier this year.
Under the legislation, a court may order a person convicted of vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide to pay child maintenance if the victim were the child’s parent or parents. The support payments would continue until the child turns 18 years of age and graduates high school.
For defendants incarcerated and unable to satisfy the restitution requirement, they have up to 1 year after release to start making payments. However, their financial obligations during that period are not paused. The defendant must also pay any outstanding amount. If the child turns 18 and has graduated, but the defendant has not paid the entire required child support payments, the defendant must continue to make payments until the obligation is satisfied.
If the child’s surviving parent received compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant, the criminal court would not order maintenance. Additionally, if the parent takes civil action and obtains a judgment after the defendant is convicted and required to pay child support, the restitution amount would be adjusted to account for the award.
The bill is now awaiting Governor Bill Lee’s review.
Determining Child Support Amounts
The amount of child support the defendant would be required to pay depends on the situation.
The court would consider various factors, including:
- The child’s financial needs,
- The parent or guardian’s financial needs,
- The child’s standard of living,
- The child’s physical and emotional condition,
- Custody arrangements, and
- Childcare expenses.
Will Other States See Similar Legislation?
Although Tennessee might have been the first state to pass a bill to include child support as a penalty for certain DUI offenses, it may not be the only one. According to the New York Times, Ethan, Haile, and Bentley’s Law came about after a Missouri grandmother approached a Tennessee legislature about her proposed bill (Ethan’s Law).
The woman, Mrs. Williams, had lost her son, his wife, and their youngest child to a drunk driver. Stepping in to raise her son’s other two kids, she realized people might be willing to take care of children of friends or family members killed in DUI accidents but not have the financial means to do so. Imposing a child support penalty on offenders would help individuals get the assistance they need to care for the child and could deter drunk driving by attaching greater monetary consequences to the offense.
Mrs. Williams approached 17 other states with her bill. A few are considering introducing legislation similar to Tennessee’s.
Fight Your DUI Charge
New York laws do not include child support among the possible penalties for a DUI. Still, the consequences of a conviction are serious. They include fines, incarceration, and driver’s license suspension.
If you have been accused of drunk driving in New York, you can seek to avoid or minimize penalties by challenging the allegations. Our attorney can defend you.