New law in Tennessee will require drunk drivers to pay child support if a parent is killed in an accident

A Tennessee law will make drunk drivers more responsible financially for their children if they cause a fatal accident.

Cecilia Williams thought up the bill after losing her son Cordell Williams, 30, her daughter-in-law-to-be Lacey Newton, 25, and her four-month-old grandson Cordell Williams, Jr., to a drunk-driving incident on April 13, 2021, in Missouri. 

The Williams family wearing matching shirts in support of Bentley's Law

“They didn’t ask for that. They didn’t ask to lose their parents,” she said.

Cordell Lacey and Lacey left behind two children, Bentley (and Lacey)).

“Bentley’s Law” would require an individual charged with killing a parent as a result of driving while intoxicated to pay child support for the victims’ surviving children until they’re 18 and done with high school.

Three victims of a drunk driving incident

“They will always remember, this is what I did to the family, you know, and it will sink into them,” the grandma said. “I can’t do this again. You know, I’m supporting children that aren’t mine.”

If the person can’t pay, the defendant is given a year after their release to begin payments, which will vary depending on the individual’s income. If the child turns 18 but hasn’t been paid in full, payments will continue until the child is fully paid.

Williams hopes the law will make people think twice before driving while impaired and help them understand that their actions could have serious consequences.

Cecilia Williams

“By making it a financial responsibility, it’s going to take that burden off of the families who are already suffering from the loss and a loss that should have never happened,” she said.

Williams is also pushing to see the law passed in all 50 states. She decided to call it “Bentley’s Law” because Bentley is the couple’s eldest child.

Williams has been taking care her two grandkids ever since the accident. She admitted that it has been challenging for her family and said she doesn’t want to see another family go through something similar.

Bentley Williams holding his late brother Cordell Williams, Jr.

Jay Kennamer, Chattanooga attorney, agreed that the bill would be a good idea if it was actually paid. He noted that “collectability is a very real problem” because most people who commit vehicular homicides don’t have the means to pay for the damages they cause, let alone pay child support.

He believes the bill is a fair punishment.

“If you go out and drive drunk and kill someone in a wreck as a result of the intoxication, it’s a foreseeable damage, that you’ve not only affected them, you’ve affected their whole family,” he said.

Diane Sutton, Cecilia’s cousin who lives in Cleveland, brought the bill to Tennessee, believing it’s a “great law, and it should be nationwide.”

Cecilia Williams and Cordell Williams dancing

The bill was sponsored and voted for by Mark Hall, a state representative.

“It definitely sends a message that drunk driving in the state of Tennessee is no longer tolerated,” the lawmaker said.

Williams is content that they are seeing some positive outcomes after the tragic loss of three close family members in such an accident. It was a very emotional moment for their family to learn that House Bill1834 had been passed.

“It’s almost been a year since we lost them and to have an emotion of a happy feeling and to cry with happy tears is a first. It’s the first in almost a year,” she said.

“So that feeling to me to know that their lives [are]Helping others is a great way to show your support. That to me is a great thing. And I know that they’re watching down on us and it means a lot to them.”

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