Legislation, deemed “Bentley’s Law”, went into effect over the weekend to hold drunk drivers in Texas responsible for up to eighteen years.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law June 2nd. It requires drunk drivers who kill a child’s parent or guardian to pay child support until that child turns eighteen or finishes high school.
“Any time a parent passes is tragic, but a death at the hands of a drunk driver is especially heinous,” the governor posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “I was proud to sign HB 393 into law this year to require offenders to pay child support for the children of their victims.”
“[T]he court shall determine an amount to be paid monthly for the support of the child until the child reaches 18 years of age or has graduated from high school, whichever is later,” the text says.
The bill received bipartisan support in Texas, but it originated with a Missouri woman who lost her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild to a drunk driver in 2021.
Cecilia Williams says the horrible incident left her two other grandchildren, Bentley and Mason, orphaned and traumatized after surviving the crash that took the rest of their family’s lives.
Tennessee became the first state to begin enforcing “Bentley’s Law” in July. At least 24 other states have had the same or similar legislation introduced since then.
Sgt. Erick Estrada, of Texas Department of Public Safety, said, “Drunk driving is 100% preventable.”
“Drivers arrested for DWI can also face up to $17,000 in fines and fees, jail time and loss of their drivers license.”
Drunk drivers who end up in prison will have a year after their release to begin making payments.
“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.” the law adds.