Drunk driving in Texas is about to become very expensive for anyone whose actions cause the death of a parent or guardian.
A new law previously signed by Governor Greg Abbott in June went into effect on Friday, requiring the driver to pay child support, It is one of 774 new Texas laws that went into effect on September 1, according to KHOU-11.
“Any time a parent passes is tragic, but a death at the hands of a drunk driver is especially heinous,” Abbott posted to X in July. “I was proud to sign HB 393 into law this year to require offenders to pay child support for the children of their victims.”
Those convicted of intoxication manslaughter involving the death of a child’s parent or guardian will be forced to pony up payments to the victim’s children. A presiding court will determine the amount of monthly payments that will be mandated until the child or children turn 18 or graduate from high school, whichever occurs later.
Any time a parent passes is tragic, but a death at the hands of a drunk driver is especially heinous.
I was proud to sign HB 393 into law this year to require offenders to pay child support for the children of their victims.pic.twitter.com/zpNJtRj50h
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) July 25, 2023
If the guilty individual cannot afford to make the payments while behind bars, he or she will have to start payments no later than the first anniversary of the date of release.
“The defendant may enter into a payment plan to address any arrearage that exists on the date of the defendant’s release. The defendant must pay all arrearages regardless of whether the restitution payments were scheduled to terminate while the defendant was confined or imprisoned in the correctional facility,” Bipartisan House Bill 393 asserts.
The payments are to be paid to a surviving parent or guardian, or the Department of Family and Protective Services, if the child is placed in their care.
Intoxication manslaughter is defined by state law as a person operating “a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, a watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride; and is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.”
Thank you for bringing Bentley’s Law to Texas, it is such a important bill.
— Cecilia Williams (@cecilia_july69) September 1, 2023
Legal experts laud the new law but claim it comes with challenges. Some point out though that it could provide more reliable restitution than a civil lawsuit would.
“There’s a lot of power that the criminal court has to obtain that restitution on behalf of the child that the civil courts wouldn’t necessarily have without a potentially year-long lawsuit,” Marie Briner, who is with the Briner Family Law Group, commented according to CBS News.
The woman who is behind the passage of the law is Cecilia Williams. She wept after it was signed by Abbott.
She lost her son, daughter-in-law, and infant grandson two years ago in a fiery crash caused by a drunk driver.
Bentley’s Law:’ House Bill 393 requires people convicted of intoxication manslaughter to make restitution payments for the support of a child whose parent or guardian is a victim. It is named for a similar law passed in other states stemming from a case in Missouri.
— GameChanger (@noclutter) September 1, 2023
“I got involved to try and understand the laws, you know, what are, what the consequences of these cases were, and I just found a common thing that most people got probation and there’s no justice in that, and then I seen repeat offender after repeat offender, and they would even do maybe a couple of years in jail and that was it,” Williams told KFOX14 in an interview.
Her son, Cordell, and daughter-in-law Lacy, left behind two sons who are now under their grandmother’s care.
“After paying attention to other family stories, who are like us, who have lost family members to something that’s completely preventable and they were struggling, and I decided that what needed to be done was the child restitution to help the families,” Williams commented.
Thank you Governor Abbott for signing HB393 Bentley’s Law. Bentley’s Law goes in effect 9/1/23 in Texas. Thank you Texas for doing you’re part in putting a stop to driving under the influence.
— Cecilia Williams (@cecilia_july69) June 3, 2023
“It is going to help the families with school supplies who have children in school, it’s going to help maybe put a meal on the table,” she noted, “and those things are important because a lot of families you know, I mean, I’m, I’m older, and I see a lot of older families who are even older than me, who are raising their grandchildren because a drunk driver killed their family and they struggle.”
“Hopefully it will put a stop to people driving under the influence. Make them think twice. It’s a law that’s needed everywhere. It’s a commonsense law, you kill parents, and their children are left behind, you should pay the consequences and that’s by helping the families raise them,” Williams declared.
Bentley’s Law was first introduced in 2022, and it is now a law in 4 states. Williams wants it passed in every state.
BRAVO TN! Tennessee passes bill requiring drunk drivers to pay child support if they kill parent of a minor |
“Bentley’s Law” It was inspired by a MO grandmother whose son died in a crash The crash, caused by a ddriver, orphaned two children, 5yrold Bentley and 3yrold Mason pic.twitter.com/lhMJAjH1Ej
— AGNEWSLIVE (@AMErikaNGIRLLL) April 26, 2022
“Texas being one of them, I can tell you I was overwhelmed with joy like I mean I cried for days, it was amazing to see Texas pass Bentley’s Law,” the emotional grandmother recounted, according to KFOX14.
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