Bill would require child support in DUI fatalities
By Maddison Booth
Special to the Enquirer
A bill in the Alabama House would require people convicted of driving under the influence to pay child support if that act led to the death of a child’s parent or guardian.
House Bill 114, the DUI and Child Compensation and Recovery Act, is sponsored by Rep. Proncey Robertson, R-Mount Hope.
Robertson said he wanted to bring this bill after seeing similar legislation introduced this past year in Missouri.
“We have these children that have been orphaned,” said Robertson, a former Decatur police officer, “and now they’re immediately left without.”
“I think it’s important for that kid to have stability,” added Rep. Parker Moore, R-Hartselle, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
In 2020 there were 155 fatal DUI wrecks statewide, resulting in 166 deaths, according to information from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama.
Robertson’s bill would not require a child to have a new guardian for the support to be ordered. Even in the case where the child becomes a ward of the state, Robertson said his bill would hold the driver responsible for payments.
This aspect of the bill is important to Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, a co-sponsor.
“Should the child be the responsibility of the state or the remaining family, I believe the person who killed the parents should be responsible,” Kiel said.
In addition, if the driver is incarcerated, the DUI and Child Compensation and Recovery Act gives them one year to begin paying. They must also pay the amount that accrued during their incarceration, even if the child is past 19 years of age. The penalty for a DUI-caused death in Alabama can range from one to 10 years in prison.
The amount of financial support would be decided by judges. Determining factors could include the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had his or her parent not been killed and the resources of the surviving parent or guardian.
Robertson said he has been talking with attorneys across the state, and his bill does not impact a family’s ability to bring a civil lawsuit against drunk drivers.
“(Victims) should always have that option,” Moore said.
“We don’t have an issue with the creation of child support under these circumstances,” said Gina Coggin, president of the Alabama Association of Justice. “We do want to clarify that victims and family members of an accident caused by a driver under the influence can receive all they are entitled to under the law for the injuries, pain and loss caused by the wrongdoer.”
The Alabama Association of Justice is working with Robertson on an amendment to make this option clear to victims.
The bill also stipulates that the child support cannot be paid by a third party, a concern Robertson said could come up with insurance companies.
The DUI and Child Compensation and Recovery Act has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. Robertson said he has spoken to the committee’s chair, Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville, and hopes it will receive a committee vote in the next few weeks.