For Those Who Drink, Drive and Kill, "Affluenza" Outcome Isn't Uncommon, Especially If They Have Money

EthanCouch.jpg
An affluent Keller teen who killed four people while driving drunk and stoned on Valium has become the latest object of outrage. Ethan Couch, 16 at the time of the crash, was handed 10 years of probation, which will include a stint at a pricey rehab paid for by his parents. Much of the indignation has been focused on the defense expert's absurd "affluenza" testimony. In short, it was argued that Couch's upbringing had molded a complete stranger to consequence.

The news prompted a rash of editorials, and expressions of outrage from both gubernatorial candidates.

It's debatable what influence this defense actually had on the judge. More likely, it was his parents' resources, their ability to access quality treatment for their son at no cost to the state, that produced a sentence that seems so incongruous to the death he caused.

Upon closer examination, though, probation for intoxication manslaughter is actually pretty common. The Dallas Morning News did some number crunching back in 2010 and found that some 40 percent of adults convicted of the same crime never did any time. Couch, we must remember, is a child in the eyes of the law, and the aims of the juvenile justice system, given the brain development of your average teen, are generally more rehabilitative than punitive.

It isn't Couch's sentence that should be most troubling. It's the disparity it reveals. Jessica Dixon Weaver, assistant professor at the SMU Dedman School of Law, spent a decade representing juvenile defendants. She saw firsthand two justice systems -- one for those with money and one for those without it.

"The sentence does not surprise me -- generally if the defense counsel can come up with a decent alternative to the prosecution's offer, and it is one where the parents will foot the bill rather than the state, there is either an agreement between the state and defense on the case disposition or the judge opts for the alternative," Weaver tells Unfair Park. "Middle class and wealthy children always have more options in juvenile court because their parents carry health insurance that may cover treatment [if it involves alcohol, drugs, or psychological issues] or they can pay out of pocket.

"Poor children are dependent on the options available to them based on contracts the state has with certain facilities [and] treatment centers, as well as limited space at those facilities."

Budget cuts at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department have cut down on the number of spots available at treatment facilities for juvenile offenders.

Said one juvenile defense attorney who asked not to be named: "Do you want to send him back into the community with no treatment or get 100 percent chance of him getting treatment? Do you want them back fixed or do you want them back broken?"

The answers are yes and fixed. But rehabilitation may depend on whether the juvenile comes from means. According to this study out of Stanford, it may also depend on your race. Published in the journal PloS ONE, it found that black juveniles received significantly harsher sentences than their white counterparts.

My Voice Nation Help
31 comments
bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

This is a clear case of Republican values beating out decency and justice.

To them, making a profit is paramount.  So, if they can save a buck, they'll gladly let a murderer go free... as long as it's a rich, white, murderer.



Anser
Anser

The judge is wiser than the majority and has done a great justice for our society in this decision. It would be a good thing for everyone to take a chance on rehab for all instead of crowing about 'they will get Bubba.' What is the matter with our society? Sadists? Blood-Thirsty? We have billions of dollars to send to every foreign country why not finance our country. We need rehabilitating rehab here. I do not mean a month or two and I do not mean rehab such as some of the detention centers. Real rehab lasting quite some time with family involved. With lawyers and judges involved. How about community like we haven't had since _____________________!

ryan762
ryan762

"Do you want to send him back into the community with no treatment or get 100 percent chance of him getting treatment? Do you want them back fixed or do you want them back broken?"

You could make the same argument for any number of people who have committed criminal acts, but it sure doesn't seem to work for most.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

1) For these kids that suffer from "affluenza" do we have any data of repeat offenders?

2) If a child has parents that don't care for them or punish them and basically let them run rampant, but are poor - does that mean they suffer from "poorluenza"?

leftocenter
leftocenter

There MUST be something in the middle between a resort setting and hard time!  I won't call it a "happy medium" because there is nothing happy about it.  I don't have a problem with the parents footing the bill for his treatment, but how does he learn consequences in that kind of setting?  Even a year in prison -- supplemented with the best treatment money can buy -- would have been a responsible outcome.  Even a crappy rehab place where the doctors are good but the food sucks! 

Yes, he's a kid.  Kids need discipline and correction and boundaries.  That's non-drunk-driving-manslaughtering kids.  Time will tell, but I would bet money he drinks and drives again and gets arrested or crashes. 

dallas_dude
dallas_dude

So can we have some examples of guy-who-killied-4-people-and-got-propation?

I know a 17 year old that got 10 years for killing a mom at 11pm drunk one night.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

It's debatable what influence this defense actually had on the judge. More likely, it was his parents' resources, their ability to access quality treatment for their son at no cost to the state, that produced a sentence that seems so incongruous to the death he caused.


I think the State of Texas could find the money to LOCK this guy up ....Or just send a monthly bill to his parents to pay for his incarceration .

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@Anser I like the way you use the phrase "take a chance" there - because drug and alcohol rehabs have something close to a 100% failure rate.

So there's practically NO chance that this will do him any good - unless you consider getting away with murder "good".


And sending a murderer to prison isn't sadism, it's justice. 


dallas_dude
dallas_dude

WTF?  Treatment, rehab, counceling...you do all that crap BEFORE you kill 4 people.  Once you commit the crime it is no longer about YOU and the issue becomes making sure that JUSTICE is served for the victims.  In this case, these familes became victims twice.  I hope one of those kids that got hurt dies so that he can be tried for another count of vehicular manslaughter.

cypherdalek
cypherdalek

@ryan762 You are working from the flawed assumption that rehab works.  A casual following of the tabloids or the news should quickly dispel that notion. They are full of stories of celebrities going back to rehab for the umpteenth time.  Rehab clearly fails to help more often than not. People like that usually don't respond to treatment.  He will be doing the same thing once he is back out.  Besides the justice system needs to be fair in dispensing punishment. Affluence should not have any bearing on sentencing. This sets a bad example and makes people have no respect for the law when it is so obviously unfairly and unevenly applied.  As far as jail not working to rehabilitate criminals; for someone not accustomed and inured to street life, prison is a wonderful motivator to get on the straight and narrow. For some hardened and calloused souls prison doesn't help at all, but in this case I believe it would have.  

ruddski
ruddski

More often than not, it's singlemomfluenza. Apparently, that's one disturbing constant among school shooters, like the lefty guy last week.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

You have obviously never been to rehab. Resort my ass. It's not a lot of fun, I promise you....I've been twice.

Americano
Americano

@lecterman 

He wasn't a Minor either.  Although this kid deserved at least 20 yrs, the law is what the law is.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Prior offenses and adult court versus a juvenile in family court. Big difference legally.

ryan762
ryan762

@cypherdalek@ryan762I'm not working from that flawed assumption. The person who offered that quote that I quoted was operating from that flawed assumption.


I was just noting that the same argument could be made for nearly every criminal, but we don't accept that argument except in very rare cases like this one (where it comes across as an excuse for giving someone who didn't deserve it light treatment).

casiepierce
casiepierce

@P1GunterOh boo hoo, rehab sucks because it's rehab and you can't get your fix! Crime and punishment does not = rehab. Being an addict is not a crime. Killing people is. Maybe,  just maybe, he should have been in rehab in the first place.

leftocenter
leftocenter

Did you go there because you killed four people?

If he was just a rich drug or alcohol addict it would be fine. And as far as I can tell, this kid is addicted to wealth, luxury, and a lack of supervision.  He should be rehab-ing from ALL THREE of those things. Some sort of boot camp environment would be more appropriate.   

Only best wishes you you.

ryan762
ryan762

@Americano@lectermanIt's not like the law says Couch couldn't be sentenced to 20 years. It was an option (sure, there would have been a hearing at age 18 to determine whether he would go to big person's jail and continue to serve his sentence, but the actual sentence could have been 20 years even for a juvenile).

lecterman
lecterman

@ScottsMerkin@lectermanI understand that, but the kid had been in trouble before for alcohol related issues.  So he had opportunities to "clean up" before and change his behavior.

ryan762
ryan762

@ScottsMerkin@lectermanNo, but it was Erica Kolanowski's first offense. She got 16 years for killing one person.


But she was 31 (but they still could have given her probation. They simply decided that it was important to punish her for her actions than get her treatment. The jury decided that one person's life was worth getting Erica back broken instead of fixed.)

casiepierce
casiepierce

@P1Gunter@casiepierceThe point of rehab is to get you healthy, mind, body and soul. They HAVE to cut you off from the outside world and whatever influences are out there so you can FOCUS on yourself and on getting better, taking charge of your life and overcoming your illness. That is why is feels "like prison". Prison doesn't care about helping you. Your rehab food tasted shitty because it's supposed to be bland for a reason. Prison food tastes shitty because it's cheap and they don't care about your picky palette. Rehab is a choice (most of the time); Prison is punishment and also not a choice. I don't care how shitty your rehab experience was, you were there either by choice or because a family member cared enough to commit so he/she didn't have to watch you kill yourself, not because you committed a heinous crime. If this kid had been drunk and high and walked into a 7-11 and pointed a pistol at four people and killed them, would he still be going to rehab instead of prison? There is a HUGE difference between rehab and prison.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@casiepierce@P1Gunter Since it is obvious you've never been to a rehab center, let me explain to you how the process works. And no, not getting your fix is not why it sucks. I've been twice.


When you check in they search everything you bring in, they then cut off any potential string (hoodies, pants, slipper, etc.) they deem as potential suicide cases (I'm wearing the stringless hoodie now from my last check in). They also confiscate lighters (because people will start fires) and anything remotely sharp. They then assign you a room with the most uncomfortable bed you have ever been on and lock away your shit, especially if you have cigarettes because those are gold in rehab. Your hours are regulated as in you are confined to your room during "dark hours." You get meds 3x a day (if you're lucky the intake doctor prescribed you what you were on and what you need), and your vitals are taken every hour or two. You get three really shitty meals a day, and if you're really lucky you can get someone to bring you something worth a damn to eat. To this day every time I eat Sonic I think of that damn hospital because my dad would bring me a cheeseburger and cigarettes during the 1 hour of visiting time you get a day. You get one hour of activity which consisted of a bag of balls in a gym and a radio so you could listen to music if all the jonesing and bitchy addicts could somehow decide on a station. Outside of meals and a few hours at night before bed where said jonesing and bitchy addicts could decide on a tv show to watch, the day consists of extremely mundane group meetings with therapists that are barely out of college and visiting AA/NA groups. When there is a break, 90% of the people flock to the patio for a cigarette and to talk about what substance they were in for, what meds they were getting, and when they were getting out. There is no internet, and the highlight of your day is when you get a newspaper from the nurses just to know what the fuck is going on outside of those walls, everyone read that thing because it was different from reading/listening to Bill's stories in the blue book from like 1950. It's really not that far from prison. I've only been to county jail, but I'd equate the experiences except I got drugs and could smoke in rehab as opposed to my breakfast stolen and nothing to read in jail.

At $450k for a year and being in California, I really doubt his facility is much better than mine were, just in a better climate. Most insurance plans cut you off at 30 days, but it ran $1k a day or so where I was, so that's $360k a year, with the adjustment for California cost adjustment that's about what my facility would cost out there. They just don't have the awesome creepy old cemetery next door like I did, which I still visit.

Anser
Anser

@lecterman@ScottsMerkinNo, he did not have a chance when there was obviously no one telling him he was WRONG. He needs to be taught and jail, prison, detention do not help they hurt.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...