If You are Affluent do You Need an Alcohol Education Class?

by: Mike Miller

Can simply being rich be an excuse for getting out of a drunken driving violation (DUI)? Apparently it can.

In North Texas back in December, 2013 a juvenile court judge sentenced a 16-year-old from a well-off family to 10 years’ probation for killing four people in a drunken-driving crash. As reported in www.nytimes.com.

The judge declined to give the teenager, Ethan Couch, the punishment sought by Tarrant County prosecutors — 20 years in prison — and instead ordered him to be placed in a long-term treatment facility while on probation. The judge’s order came after a psychologist called by the defense argued that Mr. Couch should not be sent to prison because he suffered from “affluenza” — a term that dates at least to the 1980s to describe the psychological problems that can afflict children of privilege.

Have you ever heard of a case where the defense tried to blame a young man’s conduct on the parents’ wealth? It is no surprise that the judge’s sentence has outraged the families of those Mr. Couch killed and injured, as well as victim rights advocates who questioned whether a teenager from a low-income family would have received as lenient a penalty.

Criminal defense lawyers said it was not uncommon for minors involved in serious drunken-driving cases and other crimes to receive probation instead of prison time, even in a tough-on-crime region such as North Texas. Other experts said it was part of a growing trend of giving a young person a second chance through rehabilitation instead of trying him as an adult.

On the night of the incident, Ethan Couch and several friends stole beer from a Walmart and went to his parents’ home to have a party. Later, he swerved off the road killing four pedestrians: Breanna Mitchell; Hollie Boyles and her daughter Shelby, 21; and Brian Jennings. Ethan had a blood-alcohol level of 0.24, three times the legal limit for drivers.

So, to recap, one person is paralyzed, four people are dead and the perpetrator gets his wrists slapped. How do you feel about this verdict? Did he get off because he was rich? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.