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Yes, a Tennessee bill would require drunk drivers to pay child support if they kill a parent

A Tennessee bill requiring drunk drivers to support victims’ children is heading to the governor’s desk. Other states are also considering similar legislation.

UPDATE: Tennessee House Bill 1834, named “Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law," was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee on May 25, 2022. The original story continues as written below.

Drunk driving legislation in Tennessee is garnering attention on social media, with some expressing their support for its introduction nationwide. 

Tweets (here and here) claim that lawmakers in the state have passed a bill that would require drunk drivers to pay child support if they cause the death of a parent. WebMD also shared a similar headline on Facebook.

THE QUESTION

Have Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill that would require a drunk driver to pay child support if they kill a parent?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill that would require a drunk driver to pay child support if they kill a parent. The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk and if signed, would become law.

WHAT WE FOUND

Missouri resident Cecilia Williams is leading an initiative called “Bentley’s Law,” which is named for her grandson who lost both his parents and 4-month-old brother in a suspected DUI crash. The legislation, which requires drunk drivers to pay child support for victims’ surviving children, was first introduced in Missouri, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). 

Missouri House Bill 1954 would require the drunk driver to pay child support to a child or children’s surviving parent or guardian until they turn 18. If the child is 18 and enrolls in college, the payments would occur until they reach the age of 21 or complete their degree – whichever comes first. 

Lawmakers in other U.S. states are also introducing similar legislation, and both the Tennessee House and Senate have unanimously passed a version of it. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s office will review the final legislation once it reaches his desk, a spokesperson told VERIFY on April 26. According to MADD, Lee is expected to sign the bill into law. 

Tennessee House Bill 1834, named “Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law” to include two surviving children of a police officer who was killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver, was introduced in January 2022 by its main sponsor, Rep. Mark Hall (R-Cleveland). The bill requires a defendant who is convicted of “vehicular homicide due to intoxication or aggravated vehicle homicide” to pay restitution in the form of “child maintenance” to each of the victim’s children until they are 18 years old and have graduated from high school. 

Under the bill, the court would be required to determine an amount that is “reasonable and necessary” for support of the victim’s child or children after considering factors including financial needs and resources of the child and surviving guardian and the standard of living to which the child is accustomed. 

Ohio Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Chesterland) announced on April 25 that she is introducing legislation that would require drunk drivers to support victims’ children. There are nearly a dozen other states that are also considering versions of Bentley’s Law, according to MADD. 

“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,” Williams said in a statement. “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.” 

More from VERIFY: Fact-checking claims about Tennessee proposed marriage bill and child age

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