Pa. Bill Would Make Drunk Drivers Pay Child Support

‘Bentley’s Law’

Sen. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna/ Luzerne/Monroe, is pictured during a January meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee. Submitted Photo

Pennsylvania is the third state in the past two months to see legislation introduced requiring DUI offenders to pay child support if a parent is killed in an accident.

Sen. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna/ Luzerne/Monroe, introduced Senate Bill 1088. Modeled after a Missouri proposal titled “Bentley’s Law,” Flynn proposes directing judges presiding over cases in which a person is killed in a drunk driving accident to pay child support to a surviving spouse or relative until the child is 18 years old.

“Specifically, the legislation will direct judges presiding over these cases to include this provision as part of the offender’s sentence under the subject of ‘restitution,'” Flynn wrote in his legislative memorandum. “This will preclude the need for separate, civil action that not only forces families to relive memories of the tragic incident, but also adds additional layers of legal action that tax our judicial system. This legislation will also ensure that the surviving caretaker at least has some financial assistance to provide for the surviving child or children.”

The legislation is co-sponsored by a mix of Republicans and Democrats, including Sen. Michele Brooks, R-Crawford/Erie/Mercer/Warren, a sign that SB 1088 may reach the Senate floor for a vote.

“There is nothing that can be done to bring back the loved ones lost to the reckless, selfish decisions of drunk drivers; however, this measure aims to further deter drunk driving and ensure that those who suffer the tragic consequences of losing a family member are given the justice they deserve,” Flynn wrote.

According to multiple media reports in Missouri, Cecelia Williams has been lobbying for similar legislation to be passed after an accident killed her son, his fiance and their 4-month son, leaving Williams and her husband to care for their 5-year-old grandson Bentley in addition to their own two children.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Alabama while legislation is being considered in Tennessee, but has not yet been introduced.

“I do firmly believe that these people who are driving drunk and take away the parents of these children, there’s got to be some help for these children. It comes down to that,” Missouri Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, told television station KMOV in December.


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