A DWI charge in itself is a serious matter. A conviction can follow you in ways you may not have anticipated for the rest of your life. If someone is injured or killed in a collision caused by a drunk or drugged driver, that driver will face even more serious charges.

The consequences are about to increase here in Texas for those convicted of intoxication manslaughter if the person killed is a parent or guardian of a minor child. Beginning on Sept. 1 of this year, Texas becomes one of a growing number of states that require people to provide restitution (financial support) for the children of those killed due to their impaired driving.

This restitution is required in addition to any other legal consequences faced by the driver, including incarceration for up to 20 years. It is due until a minor child turns 18 or graduates from high school (if that’s after their 18th birthday).

If the convicted driver is sentenced to prison, they have up to a year after their release to begin their payments. However, that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook if the child turned 18 while they were incarcerated. The law states, “The defendant must pay all arrearages regardless of whether the restitution payments were scheduled to terminate while the defendant was confined or imprisoned in the correctional facility.”

How is the amount of restitution determined and enforced?

Judges are directed by the law to consider a number of factors when determining the restitution amount. These include:

  • The financial resources of a surviving parent or legal guardian, the child (for example, an inheritance) and the defendant
  • The child’s prior standard of living
  • The child’s financial and educational needs as well as their “physical and emotional condition”

The restitution order involves a payment plan worked out by the defendant and the court that typically involves monthly payments.

The law states that if a defendant doesn’t comply with the order, it can be enforced by a surviving parent or guardian “in the same manner as a judgment in a civil action.” It may also be enforced by “the office of the attorney general.”

As noted, this added consequence of fatal impaired driving collisions is becoming more common across the country. It’s just one more reason why it’s crucial to seek legal guidance if you’re charged with any DWI-related offense.