Texas Teen Gets Probation After Claiming “Affluenza” Defense in Fatal DUI Accident

Earlier this week, a Texas teen received a decidedly lenient sentence from a judge after claiming that his case of “Affluenza” rendered him less culpable for a fatal DUI accident. This was the first time the defense has been successfully used anywhere in the country. According to a report by the Huffington Post, the teenager’s lawyer argued that the teen’s affluent upbringing was responsible for his irresponsible behavior. The judge apparently agreed and the teen was sentenced to ten years of probation, rather than any prison time (which would have been a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison).

According to court documents, the teen was seen on video stealing several cases of beer before getting into a Ford F-350 truck, driving away, and then hitting four pedestrians. The teen had seven passengers in the truck when he got into the fatal accident. When the police tested the teen’s blood alcohol content, it registered at three times the legal limit.

What is the Affluenza Defense?

Although the Affluenza defense has only recently been thrust into the mainstream media, the term has been around since the 1990s, when a prominent psychologist coined the term. Affluenza is used by some psychologists to describe a condition where children—usually from well-to-do families—“have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behavior, and sometimes dabble in drugs and alcohol.”

The defense argument was that, while the accident was clearly the teen’s fault, strictly speaking, he is not as culpable as he could be because his affluent upbringing failed to teach him to take responsibility and act in an appropriate manner. Because he is not as culpable as he could be, he is not necessarily deserving of the strict punishment that comes along with the crime.

Criticisms of the Affluenza Defense

Victim advocates have a problem with the so-called “spoiled brat” defense because it takes the focus off of the victim and uses the defendant’s wealth to decrease his culpability. In response, some argue that the focus of any criminal charge should be on the offense and the offender, rather than on the victim.

Another interesting criticism of the Affluenza defense is that it treats rich and poor defendants differently. One psychologist notes that “[w]e are setting a double standard for the rich and poor,” and the message is that: “families that have money, you can drink and drive.” As for those families who do not have money, they will be left with the more traditional defenses of self-defense, defense of others, necessity, etc.

Have You Been Charged with a Criminal Offense in the Jacksonville Area?
If you have been charged with a crime in the Jacksonville area, you should speak to a dedicated Jacksonville criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Almost every criminal offense has applicable defenses. The more time your lawyer has to delve into the facts of your case and develop a defense, the stronger that defense will be at trial. The skilled attorneys at the Forbess Law Firm have the dedication and experience to represent you against any criminal charge. Contact the Forbess Law Firm online, or call 904-634-0900 today to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

See More Blog Posts:

Sunrise Police Officer Resigns After Being Charged With Marijuana Distribution, Jacksonville Criminal Attorney Blog, October 7, 2013.

Convicted Murderer Possibly Suffers From New Lethal Injection Concoction, Jacksonville Criminal Attorney Blog, October 24, 2013.

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