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Drunken drivers would have to pay child support for victims’ kids under these laws


American Military News by  Robbie Sequeira -  February 22, 2024

It was an unimaginable tragedy — the loss of her son, daughter-in-law and 4-month-old grandson in an April 13, 2021, car crash in Missouri — that pushed Cecilia Williams into advocacy.

A month after visiting the crash site marker on a Missouri state highway, Williams recalled, she knew she had to channel her grief into strength for her two surviving grandsons, Bentley and Mason — and for others affected by reckless, fatal crashes.

Working with other advocates, she helped write legislation called “Bentley and Mason’s Law” — often shortened to Bentley’s Law — that would require convicted drunken drivers to pay child support for children who lose one or both parents in a fatal accident.

The bill was first introduced in her home state of Missouri in 2022, but it failed. Still, similar legislation is spreading in U.S. statehouses, according to Becky Iannotta, a spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), one of the major advocacy groups for Bentley’s Law.

Three states — Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas— have passed some version of Bentley’s Law. Since 2022, at least 20 states have considered legislation similar to it.

This year, proposals have been introduced in at least a dozen states: Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Florida’s bill would apply to additional criminal offenses beyond drunken driving that lead to the death of a parent. South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin bills would include crashes caused by drugged driving. In some states, however, questions over how the law would be applied and which courts would set the penalties have stalled legislation. In Maine, proposed legislation passed after being amended to describe how courts should handle restitution for minors in the case of a parent’s death resulting from any criminal offense.



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