A drunk driving crash that causes catastrophic injuries or death can have long-term consequences for the families of those who were in the vehicles. That’s especially true when a child loses a parent.
Texas has become the latest state to enact a law that requires those convicted of killing the parent or legal guardian of a minor child in a collision to help support that child until they become an adult. The new law took effect on Sept. 1, 2023.
When do payments begin?
Specifically, the law requires judges to order “restitution payments for the support of a child whose parent or guardian is a victim of intoxication manslaughter.” This restitution is an added legal consequence for this offense, which already carries a potential prison term of up to 20 years.
Of course, if a person is serving time, it can be difficult to come up with the ordered support payments. That’s why people don’t have to begin making payments until up to a year after their release if they don’t have the resources to make them while they’re incarcerated.
It’s important to note, however, that even if a child turns 18 (or in some cases 19) during that time, the law still requires defendants to pay “all arrearages regardless of whether the restitution payments were scheduled to terminate while the defendant was confined….”
How is restitution determined?
Certainly, every situation is different. Some defendants have more resources than others, and some children who lose a parent or guardian have greater needs than others – particularly if they were involved in the crash as well.
Under the new law, judges are to consider factors including:
- The financial resources of any surviving parent or the appointed legal guardian as well as those of the child (such as life insurance or inheritance)
- The financial resources of the defendant
- The child’s financial, education needs
- The child’s physical and emotional condition
- The child’s standard of living prior to losing their parent or legal guardian
Typically a monthly payment plan is worked out with the court so there doesn’t have to be contact between the defendant and the family.
This additional consequence of being convicted of intoxication manslaughter can follow a person for many years after they’ve finished serving their sentence. It’s just one more reason why it’s crucial to have experienced legal guidance if you’re facing this charge.