Ethan Couch, a wealthy teen from Texas, recently avoided a jail sentence for DUI by using a controversial "Affluenza" defense. But does that even exist?
For most people, a conviction for vehicular manslaughter after four people die in a DUI car crash warrants a lengthy sentence, but not for Ethan Couch, 16.
According to his attorney, he suffers from "Affluenza," a condition that a judge believes is best remedied with probation and long-term therapy.
What the term means that his wealthy parents pretty much let him get away with everything for his entire life, and as a result, he did not know better.
The defense saved him from a 20-year sentence. State District Judge Jean Boyd bought it at his sentencing on Tuesday and gave Couch probation instead.
“He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way,” Gary Miller, a psychologist assigned to Couch said in court. “He had the cars and he had the money."
"He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.”
The defense said that his upbringing led to a chronic "condition" and an explanation for the rash of irresponsible behavior on June 15 that ended in tragedy.
The spree began with Couch stealing beer from a Walmart with friends, jumping into a pickup truck and smashing into a woman whose car broke down.
The drunk teenager killed the woman, two people who lived nearby and came to help, and a passerby. Others were badly hurt in the fatal car crash.
Ethan Couch’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
Couch subsequently pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter by intoxication and two counts of assault by intoxication causing bodily injury.
The Texas penal system sentencing guidelines for crimes like this call for fines of up to $10,000 and between 2 and 20 years in the state penitentiary.
But instead Couch got 10 years of probation and zero time.
If he slips up he could go to jail for 10 years, according to a statement from the Tarrant County District Attorney. Still, the victims' families are furious.
Defense attorney Scott Brown praised Boyd’s decision.
“She fashioned a sentence that could have him under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years," he said in support of the controversial ruling.
Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter Holly and Shelby in the crash said it was Couch’s wealth alone that kept him from a harsher sentence.
“Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail,” he said. “If [he] had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different.”
What do you think of Couch's sentence? Is it fair?