Orange County Criminal Defense

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The Rich People Defense

January 15, 2014

Fred Thiagarajah

16 year old Ethan Couch avoided all possible prison time, as his lawyer made a great defense to get him off with 10 years of probation and counseling instead.

Couch had gotten into a drunk-driving accident in June, which resulted in the death of four pedestrians. When prosecutors in Texas approached this case, they had initially asked for 20 years of jail time, but failed to receive any at all. At the time of the incident Couch’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) was a .24, three times the legal limit for those over 21.

Couch’s lawyer, however, argued that Couch had been a victim of wealth, and that his parents had never disciplined him against his improper actions. Psychologist, G. Dick Miller testified for this, saying that Couch suffers from ‘affluenza’, a condition in which “his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences,” Miller blamed the parents for never punishing him for his behaviors. Even on a separate incident when he was caught passed out in his car with a naked 14 year-old girl, his parents failed to discipline him at all.

Along with the 10 years of probation, Couch will also be sent to a private counseling center which will cost his father $450,000.

For the original article, click here.

I’m all for creative defenses, but this ruling does not inspire confidence in our legal system. Wealthier defendants already have numerous advantages that poor defendants do not have, and now they get their own defense — affluenza — as well? Next time I get in trouble, I’m going to argue Sri Lankan-ism. The premise of this defense is that because I was born in Sri Lanka, I’m one of the chosen people and therefore I shouldn’t be punished by mere mortals. I’m not sure this defense will work in California, but I’ve got a decent chance in Texas.


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