Drunk Teen Let Off Easy Due to “Affluenza” Defense
The internet was set off into a tizzy when the recent report of a very lenient punishment given to Ethan Couch, a 16 year old young man from Texas who killed four people and injured two more during a night out with friends. According to reports, Ethan and some of his friends stole alcohol from a local Wal-mart and drove erratically at speeds of 70 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone. They reportedly ran into two vehicles, thereby killing and injuring innocent people. Ethan is said to have had a blood alcohol level that of three times the legal limit for an adult.
Due to Ethan’s privileged upbringing, which included copious episodes of coddling his inappropriate behavior, his lawyers claimed that “he wasn’t at fault because he had been spoiled by his parents… Couch’s parents had never held him responsible for previous bad behavior.” An expert on the case also dubbed Couch’s condition “affluenza,” a term that blew up on Twitter. Affluenza is reportedly an inability to make good decisions thanks to a lifetime of coddling. Apparently this defense was good enough for Judge Jean Boyd, as she reprimanded Ethan with 10 years of probation, no jail time and possible treatment at a high-end rehabilitation/treatment center in California.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
In the state of Texas, manslaughter is defined in very broad terms. In order for a defendant to be convicted of manslaughter, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant recklessly caused the death of another individual. There are no requirements for premeditation or for there to be intent or knowledge on the part of the defendant. The only requirement is that the defendant’s conduct was reckless.
Vehicular or intoxication homicide is a form of manslaughter and deals with a defendant who recklessly causes the death of another person while driving a vehicle or while intoxicated.
According to Time.com, Ethan pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter by intoxication and two counts of assault by intoxication causing bodily injury.
Texas sentencing guidelines for crimes like this call for fines of up to $10,000 and between 2 and 20 years in the state penitentiary. But instead, Couch received 10 years of probation and zero jail time. If he slips up, he could go to jail for 10 years, according to a statement from the Tarrant County District Attorney.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
If you drive while intoxicated and get pulled over by the police, you will go to jail.
If you drive recklessly and get pulled over by the police, you will go to jail.
If you drive recklessly while intoxicated, kill four people and injure two others, you will go to jail.
This entire case is an anomaly, so please do not think that you, our your loved ones, will receive the same slap on the wrist as Ethan Couch if you are caught doing the same thing.
P.S.- Judge Jean Boyd will not seek re-election next year.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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