NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Drunk drivers who kill a parent or guardian in Tennessee will pay for their crime longer than any prison sentence under a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1.
The law, known as “Bentley’s Law”, will require DUI offenders to pay child support if they kill a parent or guardian. Tennessee is the first state to pass a law of its kind.
Melinda Campbell’s husband, Michael, was hit and killed by a wrong way drunk driver on I-65 in January 2015. She told News 2 many victims aren’t financially prepared to support their families when their loved one is suddenly killed by a drunk driver.
Suddenly, Campbell became a single mother to three children and lost half of her household income after Michael was killed.
Delois Beasley served one year in prison for vehicular homicide by intoxication for killing Michael, and vehicular assault for severely injuring Michael’s friend, Terry Anderson.
“I know in our particular case, there were no financial stipulations to the punishment, not that finances change the hurt, but the reality is families still have bills to pay, they have mortgages, they have groceries, they have medical bills, both of my kids have been in braces and those things add up quickly,” Campbell said.
The law gives DUI offenders who are in jail up to one year after their release to begin making payments, including backpay.
If the child turns 18 years old but has not received all the money owed to them, the offender must continue sending money until all debts are paid off.
While the law won’t help Campbell’s family, she hopes it prevents future victims’ families from being put in a financial bind.
However, while the money may help soften the blow, it can’t buy away the pain of losing a loved one because of a drunk driver.
“Families never get over the loss,” Campbell said. “Yes, this law is a step in the right direction because again, it adds some accountability, but we will never get back what she took from us ever.”
The court will decide the amount the DUI offender must pay in child support, which will be determined by a variety of factors.