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Law requiring drunk drivers to pay child support if parents killed may face challenges

Law requiring drunk drivers to pay child support if parents killed may face challenges
Law requiring drunk drivers to pay child support if parents killed may face challenges 02:35

DALLAS ( - The State of Texas is taking a dramatic step to discourage drunk driving with a new law that takes effect on Friday. 

Drunk drivers who kill the parents of children will be required to pay child support. 

Legal experts say that while it sounds like a good idea, it does come with challenges. 

"My parents were amazing people and truly pillars of their community," said Erin Bowers, whose parents were killed by a drunk driver.

Bowers was only 6 months old when a drunk driver in 1985 prevented her from ever knowing her parents. 

"Every happy memory or happy holiday event that happens there's always a bit of sadness to it," Bowers said.

The Texas mother now advocates for tougher drunk driving laws, including a new one that takes effect on Friday, which would require drivers like the one who killed her parents to pay child support to their victim's kids. 

"We're gonna put a stop to people making these bad decisions," said Bowers.

"It's probably gonna take some time to kind of work out some of the kinks," said Marie Briner, with the Briner Family Law Group

Briner is board-certified in both family and criminal law. She says imposing child support could be challenging if the victim's children become adults while the drunk driver serves a lengthy prison sentence. 

"If we got situations where somebody could go to prison for 20 years or more, which could easily happen, then it's really not satisfying that intention," said Briner.

"I see it having a lot of challenges.' said Randy Essenburg, of the Randy J. Essenburg Law Firm.

Randy Essenburg is another longtime family law attorney in DFW who says there are a lot of difficult questions the new law doesn't answer. 

"What happens if the perpetrator is a mother with three children herself," Essenburg asks. "How does that play out in the courts in terms of her children?"

Imposing child support could also subject victim's families to years of child support hearings, Essenburg says. 

"I think it's going to have some drama and some trauma when it goes into practice because, would you want to go back and repeatedly see the person that caused so much damage in your life in court," said Essenburg.

But legal experts say the new law could provide more reliable restitution than a civil lawsuit. 

"There's a lot of power that the criminal court has to obtain that restitution on behalf of the child that the civil courts wouldn't necessarily have without a potentially year-long lawsuit," Briner said.

Legal experts also say this law could result in lighter sentences for those convicted of intoxication manslaughter so they can work and provide support if the victims have children. 

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