Tennessee legislation designed to force drunk drivers to pay child support if they kill a parent through vehicular homicide passed the state Senate in a unanimous vote on Wednesday. The bill previously passed the state House in another unanimous vote, and now heads to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk.
Under House Bill 1834, a defendant convicted of vehicular homicide or aggravated vehicular homicide due to intoxication whose victim is the parent of a minor child must “pay restitution in the form of child maintenance to each of the victim’s children until each child reaches 18 years of age and has graduated from high school, or the class of which the child is a member when the child reached 18 years of age has graduated.”
The court would determine the “an amount that is reasonable” based on “the financial needs and resources of the child; the financial resources and needs of the surviving parent or guardian of the child, including the state if the child is in the custody of the department of children’s services; and the standard of living to which the child is accustomed.”
Prior to passing in the Senate, an amendment to rename the bill “Ethan, Haile, and Bentley’s Law” was added, honoring the children of Officer Nicholas Galinger, a 38-year-old Tennessee police officer who was killed by a drunk driver.
Janet Hinds, 57, was found guilty of the fatal hit-and-run of Galinger earlier this year. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison, The Associated Press reported.
Before her sentencing, Hinds was given the opportunity to speak and apologized to Galinger’s family, as well as her own. She claimed she did not know she hit someone on the night of the incident and said she would have remained at the scene if she knew.
“I know this apology may be inadequate for the Galinger family,” said Hinds, who was holding back tears. “Nothing besides God will lessen the hurt that you feel, that I feel.”
Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don W. Poole said he believed Hinds’s remorse was sincere, but while she didn’t mean to kill anyone, she “did intentionally drink before getting into her vehicle.”
“As I promised, I will do what it takes to protect the future of our most valuable resources, our children,” Tennessee Representative Mark Hall said in a statement regarding the bill, according to The New York Times. “Tennesseans care for each other and we will do everything in our power to hold people accountable who chose to do harm.”