Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill requiring convicted drunk drivers who kill both parents of minor children to pay child support. Anyone convicted in Texas of intoxication manslaughter of a child’s parent will have to make monthly payments to the child’s legal guardians. The new law will go into effect on September 1, 2023.
The amount of child support will be determined by an array of factors, such as standard of care that the child is accustomed to, their physical and emotion condition, and the child’s educational needs, among other potential factors. If the defendant cannot make the payments because they are incarcerated, the defendant can begin making the payments no later than one year after their release date. The support will end once a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later.
Texas is often ranked among the worst states for DUIs. In 2021, the City of San Antonio alone came in fourth among US cities for DUIs and Texas ranked 3rd among states. Texas is now the twelfth state to pass such a law, with Tennessee being the first state to do so.
Child Support Shouldn’t Be Limited to Intoxicated Driving
This law properly holds drunk drivers accountable for actions, but it doesn’t go far enough. There is no reason that people who drink and shoot a gun shouldn’t be any less accountable. Anyone who intentionally murders a parent should also be held accountable. Intoxicated driving is a huge crime, but most homicides are horrendous. A child who loses a parent because of a home invasion is just as deserving of financial support as a child who lost a parent to a drunk driver. If people are deterred from drunk driving because of this law, then it would be beneficial to apply this law to every homicide.
Child Support Shouldn’t Come Out of a Civil Judgment
Notably, this law deducts the amount of child support from a civil judgment against the drunk driver. While most jurisdictions frown on “double-dipping” by plaintiffs, children need both potential sources of income. A convicted drunk driver who kills another person may be spending a few years in jail and may not have any income to garnish afterward. It may be up to an insurance company to pay for a judgment in order to cover the costs.
This law must not stifle the obligation of insurance companies to pay for potential restitution even if a drunk driver is required to pay child support through this law. Enforcement of child support orders against those convicted of intoxicated manslaughter may be just as difficult as against “deadbeat fathers.” Children cannot depend on drunken losers to pay them, though it is valuable to make the attempt. Children may lose money from this bill than they would gain through the civil court system.
The new law is a fine idea in principle, but it must go further to make a meaningful difference. It must not become another cynical tool to shift financial liability from insurance companies or
state compensation bills to criminals. Otherwise, the children who are supposed to benefit from this law will merely become victims of state laws as well.
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