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May, 9 2018
“Affluenza” as a Legal Argument

The term affluenza has been around for a while, but most people may think that it’s a relatively new word. It’s almost synonymous with Ethan Couch, and to many, everything that is wrong with the United States today. Affluenza is the term that was used to describe the teen’s wealthy upbringing. In that, his parents were irresponsible in raising him. This lead to his lawyers successfully argued that his parents enabled him to drive under the influence of alcohol on the night of the crash. The question is whether or not it’s the affluenza defense is a valid legal argument. Will this be a new precedent for future cases or was this a one-time-only legal argument that won’t work again?  

What Is the History of the Term Affluenza?

The term affluenza isn’t as new as many people may believe. Jessie H. O’Neill first used it. She was the granddaughter of the president of General Motors that wrote a book. The book was about how empty life can be when only pursuing wealth. PBS also used it as the title of a special. This special was about materialism and the costs that come with it. They looked at both the social and environmental aspects of materialism. While it’s not currently considered a real mental disorder, it has been used by psychologists, environmentalists, and scholars. However, most people will think of Ethan Couch when hearing the word affluenza for his legal team’s success in using it as their legal argument.

Recent Use of This Term in a Legal Argument

The only and most notable use of the term affluenza as a legal argument was in the Ethan Couch case.

The Party at Ethan Couch

On June 15th, 2013, Ethan Couch was hosting an unsupervised party at a home where he’d been living unsupervised by his parents. The teens at this party were drinking and playing beer pong. One of the teens at the party wanted to go to the store, and Mr. Couch drove despite drinking enough to have three times the legal limit. Eight teens got into his car with six sitting inside of the truck, and two were in the truck bed.

The Disabled Car

Down the road, there was another accident close by where another graduation party was wrapping up. As people were assisting the woman who has crashed her car after work, Mr. Couch was speeding down the road and driving recklessly by accounts. He swerved once the prior accident came into view and one of the teens yelled for him to get over. Once he moved as he did, the back tires jerked. This motion caused the truck to skid into a ditch.

The Aftermath

The aftermath of this accident resulted in a horrific scene for bystanders and first responders. The swerving done by Mr. Couch hit the people standing by the disabled car. In addition, his truck hit the vehicle that had stopped to help the driver of the disabled vehicle. This action caused the car to go into oncoming traffic. Four people were killed in the crash, and some of the victims that survived were left with potentially life-long injuries.

The Outcome

Ethan Couch was charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter in addition to two counts of intoxication assault. He pled guilty and was given a sentence of 10 years of probation and rehabilitation. Some people believe that his affluenza legal argument may have strongly influenced this sentence.  

Is This a Valid Legal Argument?

The potential of using an Affluenza defense for committing a crime as a valid legal argument is not certain. Ethan Couch’s defense team was victorious in the use of this term, but even the psychologist that used the word to describe the teen regrets it now. The public opinion on this case was so much that the mother felt it necessary to illegally take her son out of the country while he was on probation. She felt that because the public and media so hated him that it was her only option. They returned to the United States, and she was charged with a crime. Whether or not someone in the future will be able to use this defense as a valid legal argument, it will probably remain thoroughly stuck in the memories of those that heard of it.

Do you need help trying to find a valid legal argument to defend yourself in court for a DUI charge? Your best option is to locate an experienced attorney that can help you with your situation. A DUI has the potential to derail your life, but with experienced legal counsel, you can find the best foot to put forward in this matter. Contact the Law Offices of Douglas Herring today to discuss your DUI case.

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