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New TN Law: Drunk Drivers to Pay Child Support

A new law can require a person convicted of vehicular homicide to make child support payments for the children of the victims.

House Bill 1834 of the Tennessee General Assembly Legislation, also referred to as “Bentley’s Law” or “Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law,” requires a sentencing court to hold a defendant found guilty of vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide due to intoxication to accept the additional responsibility of providing financial aid to the families of the victims.

How The Law Works

More specifically, if the homicide victims had children, a Tennessee sentencing court now has the ability to make the guilty defendant financially responsible for any surviving minors of the victim. Bentley’s Law does this by enforcing a kind of child support from the guilty defendant, requiring them to pay restitution in the form of child maintenance to each of the victim’s children.

As with regular child support payments, the guilty defendant would be required to provide that financial restitution for each one of the victim’s children. So if a victim of a DUI homicide had five children, the individual found responsible for the victim’s death could be required by state law to make support payments for all five children until the last one reaches 18.

A Further Deterrent

Passed in April 2022, the law went into effect on July 1, 2022, and now 14 other states have begun to consider similar laws.

Speaking to National Public Radio back in May 2022, Representative Mark Hall, who introduced the bill in the Tennessee House, stated the law was designed to be a further deterrent against drinking and driving while helping ensure the surviving children of car-crash victims would be in a better financial situation.

For the state of Tennessee, the idea of a ‘further deterrent” works in tandem with the state’s existing law and regulations regarding the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance.

The existing penalties for driving under the influence, or committing a DUI, in Tennessee include jail time, the loss of driving privileges, and fines ranging from $350 to $15,000. Additionally, a person accused of a DUI can face additional charges depending on the situation, including child endangerment if minors happen to be inside any of the vehicles involved in the incident.

What This Means for Drivers

As a deterrent, the new law should supply every driver moving through Tennessee with an additional reason not to drink and drive.

Because of the danger to both the driver and everyone else on the road, DUIs tend to leave very little wiggle room in terms of legal defenses; unlike other moving violations such as speeding or running a red light, it’s very difficult for a person accused of a DUI to justify their actions as being necessary, even if the DUI in question did not result to injury or death.

Keep the law in mind before attempting to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence. You could end up responsible for more than your own life. Tennessee laws take Driving under the Influence very seriously and if you are accused of this, you will want a strong DUI defense attorney. When arrested for DUI, your driving privileges and license will be in jeopardy and fast action will be needed to help prevent license suspension. David Clarke and his legal team provide aggressive defense strategies to help protect your rights.

If you have been accused of a DUI, a strong criminal defense is needed. Please do not hesitate to contact the Clarke Law Firm today.