Tennessee passes bill to force drunk drivers to pay victims’ child support

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Tennessee passes bill to force drunk drivers to pay victims' child support

Lawmakers in both chambers of the Tennessee legislature unanimously passed Bentley’s Law and sent it to the desk of Gov. Bill Lee. It’s not yet known whether he will sign it. File Photo by James Atoa/UPI | License Photo

Lawmakers in Tennessee have passed a bill that would require by law that drunk drivers pay child support for children whose parents they kill in auto crashes and it’s on its way to the governor’s desk.

The bill was passed this week by the Tennessee Senate and the state House passed the proposal in February. Both chambers passed the bill unanimously.

Under the law, anyone convicted of vehicular homicide due to intoxication must pay child support until each of the victim’s children turn 18.

“A parent is responsible for the education and the upbringing of that child and when then that parent is removed from the home … someone needs to be responsible,” Rep. Mark White of Memphis told WREG-TV.

“Bentley’s Law” is the result of efforts from a Tennessee grandmother whose son, fiance and four-month-old grandson were killed by a drunk driver last year. The woman is raising the couple’s two other children, Mason and Bentley.

Just before the bill’s passage, the names of two other children were added to the legislation — Ethan and Hailey. Their father, Chattanooga Police Officer Nicholas Gallinger, was killed by a drunk driver in 2019.

Other states have proposed similar legislation, but Tennessee is the first to pass such a bill.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving applauded the lawmakers for sending the bill to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk.

“MADD believes that passing Bentley’s Law will make people think twice before getting behind the wheel impaired,” the organization said in a statement.

“If a person makes the choice to drive impaired and kills a parent, the person will encounter another consequence for their deadly decision. To the victim of the impaired drivers, Bentley’s Law allows for another avenue of restitution to help ensure justice.”

Lee has not yet indicated whether he will sign the bill.

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