A Las Vegas Guide to Bentley’s Law

According to MADD (Mother Against Drunk Drivers) one person dies every 52 minutes from drunk driving.  Each one  preventable and unnecessary.  Making matters worse is the number of parents  who are killed by a drunk driver.   Leaving behind hundreds of orphans to be cared for.   This needless death leaves the families to carry the financial burden of caring for the surviving children.

States are starting to propose laws that could force drunk drivers to financially support a child when they have killed a parent in an accident.   Missouri is one of the first states to propose Bentley’s Law.

What is Bentley’s Law?

Bentley’s Law (HB 1954) was created by Cecelia Williams of Jefferson County, Missouri. Cecelia lost her son, his fiancé, and their 4-month old child when a drunk driver rear-ended them and sent their car off the road into a fatal crash.  Cecelia’s son had two other children not involved in the crash.

The drunk driver, David Thurby, had a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit. David Thurby is charged with three counts of DUI death of another.

Cecelia Williams now takes care of her two orphaned grandchildren, Madison and Bentley.  Cecelia Williams wants to propose a new law called “Bentley’s Law,” named after one of her two living grandchildren. This law will force drunk drivers who kill a parent or guardian to pay child support until the child reaches the age of 18.  The bill has the backing or MADD.

How Does Bentley’s Law Work?

DUI offenders intentionally made a choice to drink excessively and to drive while intoxicated, whereas the affected young children were completely innocent. Cecelia Williams wants lawmakers to have the offenders cover the expenses of the children they orphaned.

Bentley’s Law is designed to work with the child support laws of the state. It would base payments on factors like the offender’s income, the child’s health and standard of living, and the state’s child support calculations. The offender’s wages are garnished, and the money goes directly to the victims.  Bentley’s law does not absolve the offender from jail time. It would be in addition to jail time.

Why is Bentley’s Law Essential?

When a parent dies, the financial burden of raising the children falls on the surviving parent or the family, godparents, or guardians that raise the children in their stead. This includes any special education and healthcare needs the child(ren) may have.  According to Cecelia’s ‘Bentley’s Law’ Facebook page, the impaired driver would be financially responsible for the dependent(s) left without the parents’ financial support.

How Does Missouri’s Bentley’s Law Affect Las Vegas?

Bentley’s Law is gaining nationwide coverage and support, and lawmakers from other states, like Tennessee and Alabama, have introduce a similar law.  When this article was written, six states had house bills drafted in support of the concept of Bentley’s Law for their own states.

  • Missouri (HB 1954)
  • Alabama’s “DUI and Child Compensation and Recovery Act” (HB 114)
  • Tennessee (HB 1834)
  • Illinois (SB 3095)
  • Virginia (HB 136)
  • Oklahoma (SB 1744)

While the law is not enacted or proposed in Nevada yet, it might be a matter of time before this becomes a reality for families in Nevada affected by drunk drivers.   Nevada’s DUI death rate is 2.8 out of every 100,000 residents.   Which is better than the national average of 3.3 out of every 100,000 residents, but still a high number of parents are being killed.

What if Bentley’s Law Was Adopted by Nevada?

If Bentley’s Law is adopted by Nevada, families like Cecelia’s will be awarded child support according to existing child support laws.  According to the child support calculator for Nevada, Cecilia would be primary custody of her two surviving grandchildren. David Thurby would have roughly 22% of his wages garnished until Madison (Age 3) and Bentley (age 5) turn 18.

Each state varies in terms of how child support works, but fortunately, child support laws are usually black and white and rarely subjective. The State of Nevada child support amounts are governed by Nevada Revised Statutes 125B and Nevada Administrative Code 425.