Drunk Drivers Must Now Pay Child Support If They Kill a Parent
According to the Texas Penal Code Section 49.08, intoxication manslaughter is defined as an individual committing an offense if they, while intoxicated, operate a vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assemble a mobile amusement ride, and cause the death of another person by accident or mistake. The term "intoxicated" here means:
- failing to have normal and full control of your mental and/or physical faculties because of your consumption of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body, or
- having an alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more.
Generally, this offense is considered a second-degree felony, and the penalties for this crime include jail time and fines. However, because of a new bill, those convicted of this offense can face another financial penalty.
Bentley’s Law, or House Bill 393, Is in Effect
Bentley's Law (or House Bill 393) was named after a young boy who tragically lost his parents to a drunk driver. Governor Abbott signed the bill in June 2023, and it went into effect on September 1, 2023. The law aims to fill a gap in existing legislation, which, although punitive towards drunk drivers, did not provide for the financial needs of orphaned children.
Under Bentley's Law, convicted drunk drivers are required to pay up to 18 years of child support if their actions result in the death of a parent or guardian. The law affects any individual convicted of causing a fatal accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The potential impact on families is significant. The mandated child support provides a safety net for children who lose their primary caregivers and breadwinners to such accidents. It offers a certain level of financial stability during an incredibly challenging time.
Legal Loopholes, Ethical Implications & Consequences
Despite the positive intent behind Bentley's Law, potential legal loopholes may exist. For instance, the ability of the offender to pay child support could be limited by their financial circumstances or incarceration. The law does not specify what happens if the convicted individual is unable to meet these obligations.
As for ethical implications, some may argue that this law blurs the line between civil and criminal law. It imposes a traditionally civil obligation (child support) as part of a criminal sentence.
Nonetheless, the consequences of violating Bentley's Law are serious. Failure to pay the mandated child support could lead to further legal penalties, adding to the already severe consequences of a DUI conviction.
Other Consequences of an Intoxication Manslaughter Charge
The state of Texas takes a strict stance on intoxication manslaughter, treating it as a second-degree felony. This means that individuals charged with this crime can face severe punishments.
These can range from 2 to 20 years in prison, along with potential fines of up to $10,000. It's important to note that each case is unique, and the specific circumstances surrounding the incident will greatly impact the exact penalties.
The consequences of intoxication manslaughter extend beyond legal penalties. A conviction can also lead to long-term personal and professional repercussions. These can include difficulty finding employment, loss of certain civil rights (like voting and firearm ownership), and even social stigma.
Reach out to Our Firm
Backed by over 35 years of collective professional experience, the team at The Clark Law Firm is equipped to help you mount a solid defense. Should you or a loved one be charged with a DWI or DWI-related offense, like DWI manslaughter, you can turn to our team for an aggressive, personalized defense.
Schedule an initial consultationby calling (817) 435-4970.