This year, Texas became one of a growing number of states where someone who causes a fatal drunk driving crash can end up having to support any minor children left without a parent or legal guardian as a result of their actions. The law became effective on Sept. 1.
Under the law, judges are required to order a person convicted of intoxication manslaughter to make restitution payments to help support these children until they turn 18 (or 19 in some cases). This is in addition to the other consequences for conviction for this offense, which can include incarceration for up to 20 years.
How is restitution determined, and when do payments begin?
The amount of restitution is unique to each case and the needs and resources of the affected child and surviving parent or appointed legal guardians. The finances of the offender will also be considered. A judge can also factor in the child’s standard of living while their deceased parent or guardian was still alive.
Certainly, if a convicted defendant has to serve time in prison, they likely won’t have the resources to make these payments while they’re incarcerated. If that’s the case, the law gives them a year to start making the restitution payments – even if the child is no longer a minor at that point. The law states that required restitution payments include “all arrearages regardless of whether the restitution payments were scheduled to terminate while the defendant was confined….”
Generally, the court will work out a monthly payment plan with the convicted driver and payments will go through the court. That helps eliminate the need for contact between them and the family.
This is just a brief outline of the law. If you’re facing an intoxication manslaughter charge, you can see that the potential consequences of a conviction can follow you and affect your finances long after the conviction and even long after being released from prison. That’s why it’s crucial to seek experienced legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights and determine how best to deal with the charge and any other charges you may be facing due to your unique circumstances.