Newly proposed legislation in both New York’s Assembly and Legislature would require people convicted of drunk driving incidents that resulted in the death of a custodial parent to make child support payments until the victim’s child (or their children) reach 18 years old. According to a recent report by Streetsblog, New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes based his legislation on a new law in Tennessee. Desmond Meeks, a member of the state’s Assembly, wrote a corresponding bill.
As Streetsblog reports, the legislation would affect drunk drivers “convicted of vehicular manslaughter (first or second degree) or aggravated vehicular homicide.” Noting that while “there is plenty” of driving under the influence in the state, there were only 34 people convicted of any of those three crimes in 2021, and the data is unclear as to how many of those incidents resulted in the orphaning of a child under 18. While the legislation, as proposed, would only pertain to convicted drunk drivers, Gounardes reportedly hopes its purview might eventually expand to all drivers convicted of any of those three crimes in cases that resulted in the orphaning of a minor or minors.
“If you drive recklessly, you are going to be held accountable,” Goundardes told Streetsblog in an interview. “There is so little accountability for drivers who kill and lack of financial compensation, so this sends a clear message: if you kill a parent, you are going to have to literally pay for it.”
As the New York Times reported in April (as cited by Streetsblog’s report last week), similar legislation is also in the works in five other states: Pennsylvania, Alabama, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. The Tennessee law itself was called “Ethan, Hailey, and Bentley’s Law,” named for children whose parents lost their lives in intoxicated driving incidents. In that case, the precise amount of child support payments owed by the drivers would be assessed by a court, and would be based on an evaluation of “the financial needs and resources of the child or children, the financial resources of the surviving parent or guardian — including the state if the child is in the custody of the department of children’s services — and the standard of living the children are used to.”