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Bentley’s Law tough on drunk drivers

By Teresa P. Crowder
Freelance Writer

Drivers take major risks if they get behind the wheel while drunk, but a new Tennessee bill could mean even greater financial consequences, specifically if the driver kills a parent of a minor.
The new legislation in Tennessee that targets drunk drivers unanimously passed the Tennessee House this past week. The new legislation entitled “Bentley’s Law” aims to hold drunk drivers accountable by requiring them to pay child support if a parent is killed in a collision. According to House Bill 1834, an impaired driver convicted of vehicular homicide will be ordered to pay restitution in the form of child maintenance to each of the victim’s children until the kids are 18 years old and graduate high school.
“We have to be tough on crime,” said Johnson County representative Scotty Campbell. “If you drive intoxicated and kill a person you are impacting an entire family.”
If the defendant cannot pay due to incarceration, the defendant is given one year after their release to begin payments. If the child or children reach 18 years of age but haven’t been paid in full, payments will continue until the child is entirely paid, the bill says.
This law was created by Missouri native Cecilia Williams, who named the legislation after her 5-year-old grandson. Last April, Cordell Williams, his fiancé Lacey Newton and their 4-month-old son, Cordell II, were killed in a crash on Highway-30 in Missouri. David Thurby faces six charges in the case, including three counts of DWI death.
Thurby is scheduled for a jury trial in September. On Monday, February 28, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed its version of Bentley’s Law by 93-0 vote. Tennessee is the first state to pass this law.
“This is simply about accountability and trying to prevent deaths,” Campbell said. “Those children still need help along the way.“
Williams has contacted other lawmakers in a dozen other states and intends to work with legislators to make this law nationwide.