This summer, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that will make Texas one of the growing number of states that require those convicted of killing someone in a drunk or drugged driving crash to provide financial support to the victim’s children. The law, which was signed in June, takes effect on Sept. 1 of this year and applies to offenses committed on that date and going forward.
Specifically, the law requires anyone convicted of “intoxication manslaughter” to pay restitution to any child whose parent or legal guardian was killed until they reach the age of 18 or graduate from high school (whichever occurs last). This requirement is in addition to any other consequences of the crime, which can include a prison sentence of anywhere from two years to two decades. If an offender is unable to pay this restitution while they’re locked up, they may be able to take up to a year after their release to start making payments.
How is the amount of restitution determined?
The judge in the case will look at a number of factors, including:
- The financial resources of any surviving parent or the child’s legal guardian
- The financial resources of the offender
- Any financial resources the child has (for example, an inheritance and/or trust)
- The child’s standard of living prior to losing their parent or guardian
- The child’s financial, educational, physical and emotional needs
The court will then work out a payment plan with the offender that will involve monthly payments. The law notes that if the surviving parent or guardian has won a civil judgment against the offender, the restitution amount is deducted from that judgment.
How is payment enforced?
If an offender fails to company with the restitution order, it “may be enforced by the office of the attorney general, or by a person or a parent or guardian of the person named in the order to receive the restitution, in the same manner as a judgment in a civil action.”
While certainly no amount of money can make up for the loss of a parent, this restitution can provide much-needed financial help for a child left behind and for those caring for that child. It’s crucial for those surviving parents and guardians to understand the child’s right to this support and how to help ensure that it’s paid.