2023 Tennessee Law Now Requires Drunk Drivers to Pay Child Support

January 12 2023 | Blog
  • DUI Law Tennessee

    Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law has passed in Tennessee

    Drunk driving continues to be a serious crime in Tennessee, but a new law hopes to deter citizens from driving under the influence. If convicted of a DUI, it’s known that you could face severe penalties, including fines, jail time, and the loss of your driver’s license. Now, those who are responsible for the death of a child’s parent or guardian due to a DUI will also have to pay child support to the deceased’s children. This new law, inspired by one presented in Missouri in early 2022, is titled Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law.

    The creation and ideation of the law stems from a tragic car wreck caused by a drunk driver that resulted in the death of a 4-month old boy and his two parents. Cecilia Williams, whose son, daughter-in-law, and grandson were fatally injured in the crash, was in fact the person who created the law and got it proposed in Missouri. The name of the law is in honor of Bentley, her grandson whose parents and brother were killed, and was modified to include the names of two surviving kids of a Tennessee police officer, Nicholas Galinger, who was killed in a hit-and-run wreck caused by a drunk driver.

    What this new law means

    The new Tennessee law will require any person convicted of drunk driving that caused a parent or guardian to be fatally injured in an accident to pay child support to any and all of their children until they turn 18 years old or graduate from high school.

    Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an organization dedicated to ending drunk/drugged driving, published a statement from Cecilia Williams in support of the law:

    “Bentley’s Law was created out of a tragedy that has affected the lives of two beautiful boys, Bentley and Mason, and the lives of our family. These crashes are totally preventable, and I will continue to fight for change for all who have suffered from impaired drivers. Many families like mine suffer such a loss every second of every day, and Bentley’s Law will bring change to hold the offender accountable for such horrific actions.” – Cecilia Williams

    Every day in the United States, around 32 people die in drunk driving crashes, and of all auto wreck fatalities in the United States, 30% involve drunk drivers. Alcohol affects the brain and the entire nervous system, resulting in impaired thinking, reaction time, muscle coordination, and many other elements. It can also cause inattention, lack of judgement, and loss of reasoning.

    The legal blood alcohol limit in Tennessee, like most states, is a BAC of .08% or lower. This number serves as the cutoff for determining whether a driver is too drunk to operate a vehicle. If you’re pulled over and your BAC is .08% or higher, you will be arrested and charged with drunk driving.

    In addition to the standard drunk driving charges and the new requirement of paying child support to those impacted by fatal DUI wrecks, there are also enhanced penalties for those who have a higher BAC or have previous drunk driving convictions. For example, if your BAC is .20% or higher, you will typically be required to stay a minimum of 7 days in jail. If you have already been convicted of drunk driving before, you could be facing even more severe penalties. There is a reason driving under the influence is illegal, and even more reasons not to do it.

    Injuries sustained from any car wreck can be catastrophic, even more so if a drunk driver is involved. With increased penalties and constant reminders for those who negligently injure others by drunk driving, Tennessee is hoping to bring justice to families who lose or have lost a loved one because of it. Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law has passed in Tennessee and is similarly being proposed in around 25 other states.

    A car accident lawyer can help if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver

    If you or a loved one is injured in a car wreck caused by a drunk driver, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. Our team has fought for the justice our clients deserve for over 35 years, and we will do whatever it takes to help you in this time of need. Don’t wait, call now: 800-800-4600.


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