Tennessee Passes Bill Making Drunk Drivers Pay Child Support If They Kill A Parent Of A Minor
Nightime Police Traffic Stop - stock photo A police car stopping a vehicle at night. RichLegg via Getty Images
RichLegg via Getty Images

The Tennessee Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would require intoxicated drivers convicted of vehicular homicide to pay child support if the victim of the offense was the parent of a minor child.

According to CBS 46, the legislation passed unanimously. It had been amended to include the names of the children of Nicholas Galinger, a Chattanooga police officer who was killed by a drunk driver while on duty in February 2019. HB 1834, also known as “Ethan’s, Hailey’s, and Bentley’s Law,” had already passed in the state’s House but has not been signed into law.

A summary of the legislation states that “if a defendant is convicted of vehicular homicide due to intoxication or aggravated vehicular homicide and the victim of the offense was the parent of a minor child,” then the sentencing court must make the defendant pay “restitution in the form of child maintenance to each of the victim’s children.”

These payments would continue until each of the children turns 18 years old and graduates from high school, “or the class of which the child is a member when the child reached 18 years of age has graduated.”

It is the court’s responsibility to decide what the amount should be for the children, taking into account the “financial needs and resources of the child,” the financial demands of the child’s guardian or living parent, which also includes the state if applicable, and the “standard of living to which the child is accustomed.”

Officer Galinger, a 38-year-old rookie, was killed in a hit-and-run in February 2019 while inspecting a manhole cover. The woman driving the car, Janet Hinds, was found guilty of vehicular homicide by intoxication and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Prior to delivering the sentence, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don W. Poole said he believed Hinds was serious about her regret and that she didn’t intend to kill anybody, but she “did intentionally drink before getting into her vehicle.”

District Attorney Neal Pinkston requested that the court place the maximum sentence of 15 years, noting that Hinds had driven under the influence multiple times. However, Ben McGowan, Hinds’ lawyer, requested consideration of the minimum sentence of eight years with “a life of 57-odd years of no criminal conduct” in mind.

Hinds has said she didn’t know she had hit a person that night and would have remained there if she had realized what had happened. She apologized to her family and the Galinger family when she spoke before listening to her sentence.

“I know this apology may be inadequate for the Galinger family,” said Hinds. “Nothing besides God will lessen the hurt that you feel, that I feel.”

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