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Columbia Personal Injury Lawyer > Blog > Car Accident > South Carolina Could Soon Get Its Own Version Of Bentley’s Law

South Carolina Could Soon Get Its Own Version Of Bentley’s Law


Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal in all 50 states, but the penalties vary from one state to another.  Some states require people convicted of DUI to pay fines and surcharges where the money goes to help people injured by drunk drivers and to the surviving relatives of people killed in DUI accidents.  Several states have their own versions of Bentley’s Law, which requires people who cause fatal accidents while driving under the influence of alcohol to pay child support for victims’ minor children.  The law is named in honor of Bentley and Mason Williams, two boys from Missouri who lost their mother, father, and baby brother when a drunk driver crashed into their family’s car in 2021.  The boys’ grandmother, Cecelia Williams, has urged lawmakers in many states to enable children orphaned by drunk driving accidents to receive child support from the drivers who caused the accident.  Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas have their own Bentley’s Laws, and several other states, including South Carolina, are considering similar legislation.  A Columbia car accident lawyer can help you if you have lost a family member in a drunk driving accident.

Provisions of Senate Bill 177

Since 2022, South Carolina lawmakers have introduced several versions of Bentley’s Law, but so far, none of them have become law.  The most recent bill, which is currently under consideration, is SB 177.  The bill’s main sponsor is Sen. Wes Climer.  If SB 177 passes, it would require drunk drivers to pay child support to victims’ minor children as a form of criminal restitution, if the driver is convicted of DUI resulting in death and the victim has at least one child who was a minor at the time of the accident.  The law would apply to fatal accidents caused by alcohol or controlled substances, and the child support payments would continue for each child until he or she reaches age 18.  Pursuant to SB 177, if the driver receives a prison sentence, he or she must begin making child support payments a year after being released from prison.

Requiring Drunk Drivers to Pay Child Support for the Children They Orphaned Is Not as Simple as It Sounds

Why is it so hard to pass Bentley’s Law?  Criminal restitution is nothing new or unusual, and there is plenty of popular support for tough laws to deter drunk and drugged driving.  The legal details are more complicated than they seem, though.  If a drunk driver serves even the minimum prison sentence for DUI manslaughter, then by the time the driver gets out of prison, the children will be almost grown up, unless they were babies at the time of the accident.  It is easier to get adequate compensation through a civil lawsuit or insurance claim.  SB 177 does not address how the proposed criminal restitution would affect the rights of victims’ families to receive compensation through civil claims.  A bar might pay millions in a dram shop liability settlement, but only the wealthiest drunk drivers could pay anywhere near that much in criminal restitution.

Let Us Help You Today

The personal injury lawyers at the Stanley Law Group can help you if you got injured in a car accident caused by drunk or drugged driving.  Contact The Stanley Law Group in Columbia, South Carolina or call (803)799-4700 for a free initial consultation.



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