Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Rich teen suffering from ‘affluenza’ gets probation for crash that killed 4

Ethan Couch, victim of his parents' wealth.

Ethan Couch, victim of his parents' wealth.

We can now add a new outrageous defense to our law books: “Affluenza,” the state or condition in which a child of wealth and privilege is raised with no consequences for bad behavior. In plain English: A spoiled rich brat can’t be held fully responsible for his actions — let’s start by blaming his parents.

Ethan Couch, 16, of Fort Worth, Texas, was looking at a possible 20 years behind bars for his DUI crash that killed four people on June 15, 2013. According to police Couch was driving with a blood alcohol content three times the limit for adults; the limit for juveniles is zero, and he had Valium in his system. Traveling at speeds between 68 and 70 miles-per-hour in a 40 mph zone, Couch killed four people standing on the side of the road outside their vehicle, and injured nine others.

Families and loved ones of crash victims Youth pastor Brian Jennings; mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles; and Breanna Mitchell, 24, had spent the afternoon in court making impact statements. Many felt the teen should spend at least some time in jail, even though at least one forgave him before the court.

Defense psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller reportedly told that court that with proper counseling the young man’s life could be salvaged by just two years of therapy — and no contact with his parents. According to Miller, essentially, Couch’s parents gave their child ”freedoms no young person should have,” resulting in a condition he called “affluenza,” which he described as the belief that wealth brought privilege, and not consequences for bad behavior.

As examples Miller said that Couch was allowed to drive at 13. Also, at 15 he was not punished when police found and ticketed him in a parked vehicle with a naked passed out girl, 14. He added that the youth is emotionally flat.

Amazingly, the argument worked.

Prior to sentencing, Judge Jean Boyd said that, despite prosecutors’ insistence that the juvenile justice system does provide counseling, she did not think that Couch would not get the therapy he needs in juvie.

She sentenced Couch to 10 years’ probation. He will be sent to a private home in California, where he will get intensive one-on-one therapy that will cost his father $450,000.

Case closed.

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