Did Rich Texas Teen Get No Jail After Killing Four Because Of “Affluenza”?


The case of a rich Texas teenager who got no jail time after killing four people in a drunk driving car crash in June has sparked a new debate about money, power, and punishment after the teen's defense team argued he was the victim of “affluenza,” or the failure of his wealthy parents to set boundaries, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Judge Jean Boyd accepted Ethan Couch's guilty pleas for killing four people and injuring nine, but the punishment – most likely a lengthy stay at a $1,200-a-day California drug treatment facility – brought outrage because it seemed to suggest that the judge bought the defense theory “that because he has gotten off without serious punishment in the past, he cannot be seriously punished in this case either,” to quote Jaquielynn Floyd of the Dallas Morning News.

Texas judges are allowed to consider “diminished culpability and great prospects for reform” when a defendant is juvenile. Sentences for intoxicated manslaughter in Texas usually range between five and 15 years in prison. Prosecutors said there are drug and alcohol treatment programs in prison, but the judge noted that the facility where he's currently housed – a California treatment facility that offers equine sports, yoga and massages – would be a better fit. Defense lawyers argued that under the maximum 20 years in jail, he most likely would have been released within a few years. Under this sentence, Couch will remain “under the thumb” of the justice system for seven years, and will be resentenced to 10 years in jail if he breaks the conditions of his probation.

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