"Affluenza" Texas Teen Kills Four, Escapes Jail Time, Because Money
Ethan Anthony Couch, who is 16 years old and hails from Fort Worth, Texas, killed four pedestrians this past June when he drunk-drove and crashed his car. Couch was driving 60-70 m.p.h. in a 40-mile zone. He had an BAC of .24 — three times the alcohol limit for an adult — and toxicology reports found Valium in Couch's system. Aside from the four people he killed, Couch also injured 10 people. And just how does the Texas justice system punish him? By not giving him jail time ... because Couch's parents are wealthy.
Now, first things first: Couch didn't literally get out of jail because he slipped the judge a check. But with 20 years of jail — yes, 20 years — looming as a possible punishment for Couch, his attorney had the brilliant idea of bringing in psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller to testify on Couch's behalf. Dr. Miller's testimony on the stand focused on Couch's wealth: the teenager, he said, had grown up amid privilege and had often expected his money to get him out of trouble. Therefore, Couch did not have a basic understanding of consequences.
Which Couch's attorney used as a basis for his argument that why Couch shouldn't be jailed for 20 years.
But no judge would fall for that one, right? Well, this judge totally bought it. Straight from WFAA ABC:
Miller said Couch's parents gave him "freedoms no young person should have." He called Couch a product of "affluenza," where his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.
He said Couch got whatever he wanted. As an example, Miller said Couch's parents gave no punishment after police ticketed the then-15-year-old when he was found in a parked pickup with a passed out, undressed, 14-year-old girl.
So "affluenza" is a real defense now, people. It's catchily named, completely immoral, and it might save you from the whole "actions have consequences" thing. Rich people, use it to your advantage. Poor people — you're still SOL.
Couch's father will still have to pay $450,000 for Couch's drug and alcohol rehab facility in California, and Couch will still face 10 years of probation. But that's several notches below 20 years in prison, and these "compassionate" forms of rehabilitation don't always turn out well.
And how do the victims' relatives feel?
"Reliving the facts and the events was difficult, but probably nothing more difficult than today," said Eric Boyles to MyFoxDFW, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash. "Money always seems to keep Ethan out of trouble. This was one time I did ask the court for justice and for money not to prevail." Thanks, justice system.