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A new Tennessee law requiring drunk drivers to pay child support if a parent is killed in an accident has unanimously passed the Tennessee House. Cecilia Williams came up with the idea for “Bentley’s Law”, HB 1834.
It would require a person convicted of killing a parent, as a result of intoxication or aggravated vehicular homicide, to pay child support for the surviving children until they’re 18 and graduated from high school.
On April 13th, 2021, a drunk driver killed Cecilia Williams’s 30-year-old son Cordell. The driver also killed her 25-year-old daughter-in-law to be Lacey and her four-month-old grandson Cordell II in Missouri, leaving behind two children, Bentley and Lacey.
“They will always remember, ‘this is what I did to the family’, you know, and it will sink into them. I can’t do this again. You know, ‘I’m supporting children that aren’t mine’,” Williams told News Channel 9.
Tennessee law sends message
The bill was sponsored by State Representative Mark Hall, and on Monday it passed the House unanimously.
“It definitely sends a message that drunk driving in the state of Tennessee is no longer tolerated,” says Hall.
If the defendant is incarcerated and can’t pay, the defendant is given one year after their release to begin payments. If the child reaches 18 but hasn’t been paid in full, payments will continue until the child is completely paid, the bill says.
In a strong warning to drunk drivers, Bentley’s Law is headed to the state Senate, where it is expected to pass and signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee.
“I want to thank Mark Hall, and all the co-sponsors of the bill, and I want to thank Diane Sutton for doing such an amazing job at helping get Bentley’s Law in Tennessee,” Williams said.