News & Commentary World

Restitution: Just Law and a Good Idea

"Paying back more than what was stolen is just. It returns to the owner what was taken and punishes the offender."

I could get behind a law such as this

“It’s been more than a year since Cecilia Williams lost her son, his fiancé and her grandson to a crash police say was caused by a drunk driver, but she’s reminded of them every day…

…It’s a pain that’s all too common. In 2020, 11,654 people were killed in DUI crashes in the U.S.—that’s one person every 45 minutes—leaving thousands of children without a parent. “I talked to so many people who’d say the same thing: The person that killed their family member didn’t go to jail. When [the case] went to court, they would spend zero time, and they’d just get probation,” Cecilia says…

So she decided she needed to do something to make would-be drunk drivers feel the lasting anguish of the loss of a loved one. She created Bentley’s Law, a proposal that would force offenders to pay child support for kids left behind when a parent is killed in a drunk-driving crash. “Some people love money more than they do life. So the way to teach a person and to prevent them from becoming a repeat offender and putting another family through this was to create something where they will have to pay,” she says.

“I want offenders to see how families truly suffer, how their actions affect everybody,” she adds. “I’m hoping that it makes people think twice.”

Restorative justice is an area that is lacking in our modern system. There are elements of it, but this sort of thing should happen more. We see it advocated for in the Scriptures: 

“If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. 8 If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.”

Exodus 22:7-9

Paying back more than what was stolen is just. It returns to the owner what was taken and punishes the offender. 

When a drunk driver kills someone, they should be treated harshly by the law and jailed for the death they caused. But just putting them in jail does not help the family who lost a provider, or a beloved wife, or treasured children. A wife has been stolen, a provider has been taken away, a loved one now lost. There must then also be some restitution. Bentley’s Law is a good step in this direction.