The Tennessee’s Republican-led state legislature unanimously passed the Ethan, Hailey, and Bentley’s Law. The bill takes a bold step to hold criminals accountable for the consequences of their crimes by making drunk drivers pay child support if they kill the parents of a minor. Under the bill, child support payments must continue until the minor turns 18 or graduates from college.
Republican Governor of Tennessee Bill Lee is expected to sign Bentley’s Law once it reaches his desk. Conservative state representative Mark White had the following to say on the necessity of passing Bentley’s law:
“A parent is responsible for the education and upbringing of that child and when then that parent is removed from the home over something so, in my opinion, foolish where we drink and drive and take the life of an innocent then someone needs to be responsible for the upbringing of those children.”
According to the legislation, courts now must determine a reasonable amount of child support payments by considering the financial needs and resources of the child or children and the financial resources of the surviving parent. Those convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication will also have to send sufficient funds so the child can retain the same standard of living they were accustomed to when both their parents were alive.
Ethan, Hailey, and Bentley’s Law was named after the children who lost their parents to intoxicated drivers.
5-year-old Bentley and 3-year-old Mason were orphaned after their parents and their 4-month-old sibling were killed in 2021 by a drunk driver. This left Bentley and Mason to be raised by their grandmother, who struggled to financially support the two children.
The bill also honors children Ethan and Hailey, who faced a similarly tragic situation. Their father was Nicholas Galinger, a Chattanooga police officer. In February of 2019, Galinger was inspecting an overflowing manhole late at night. Janet Hinds, who was heavily intoxicated, struck Galinger with her vehicle and fled the crime scene. Ms. Hinds was sentenced to 11 years in prison after being convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication.
Bentley’s law is intended to alleviate some of the suffering caused by drunk driving homicides. If this legislation had been enacted sooner, it would have greatly helped Tennessee moms like Melinda Campbell. Melinda Cambell lost her husband in 2015 and struggled to raise her two children without him:
“He was a brilliant musician, just a big history buff, and a great car salesman. He loved his boys, more than anything. He loved the Lord.”
Following the death of her husband, Melinda received very little monetary support from Ms. Beasley, the drunk driver, as she had minimum limits on their insurance and a secured pension. Melinda described her financial struggles in the following way:
“I had calculated that our household income dropped about 70%, and that’s huge because the bills didn’t go away. So, I still had my household expenses, my mortgage, my car payment, you know, insurance. Then I had expenses attributable to Ms. Beasley [the drunk driver]…. We had medical expenses. We had therapy appointments. We had all these things that came from PTSD. And all of the anxiety that came from grief, loss, and abandonment issues, there are so many things and nobody was financially liable.”
Unfortunately, Bentley’s law is not retroactive. This means that Melinda will not be receiving monetary aid from the drunk driver who killed her husband. However, Melinda is still extremely grateful that the bill passed as going forward, victims’ families won’t be weighed down financially during their time of grief like she was.
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