A Texas teenager has recently been featured in newspaper headlines after he was sentenced in a high-profile drunk driving case. The drunk driving teen was involved in a traffic accident, which caused the death of four different people. The case made news when the teenager’s criminal defense attorney helped him to avoid spending time in a juvenile detention center.
Much of the controversy in this Texas case centers on the expert testimony of a psychologist, who testified for the 16-year-old boy’s defense, saying that the boy suffered from a condition called “affluenza.” The psychologist explained “affluenza” to mean that the boy did not have a sense of responsibility for his actions as a result of being financially spoiled. The media has since latched onto this bizarre terminology. However, there is no indication that the “affluenza” argument caused the judge to forego a prison sentence. Indeed, the judge’s decision to sentence the boy to therapy and a decade of probation (in lieu of jail time) likely comes from a number of strategies employed by his defense counsel.
The prosecution is now pressing the judge to sentence the boy to prison on two other counts, which are lesser charges that have yet to be ruled on. Nevertheless, one legal expert does not believe the judge will dispense more severe punishments on these charges. The debate over whether the teen should be given a jail sentence has even entered into the gubernatorial race, as both Wendy Davis and Greg Abbot appear to agree that the judge’s decision-making process should be questioned in this particular case.
Drunk driving allegations that involve fatal Texas car accidents are often emotional and heart-wrenching. Those who are accused of causing a deadly accident will be filled with many different emotions, including sadness for the event and the fear that they could be forced to spend time in jail. Nevertheless, being accused of vehicular manslaughter and being convicted of vehicular manslaughter are two entirely different things. Those who are accused of such crimes will have the opportunity to defend themselves against the allegations and, in many cases, avoid stiff punishments. In the best of cases, the accused may even get their charges dropped and walk free of the allegations that were initially brought against them.
Source: reuters.com, Texas prosecutor seeks to put ‘affluenza’ teen behind bars, Jon Herskovitz, Dec. 18, 2013