Some of us have never heard the term “affluenza” until this week when a young Texas man appeared before a judge at his sentencing hearing. Ethan Couch is 16 years old and apparently suffers from affluenza – growing up with wealthy parents who let children get away with anything and everything. In other words, affluenza could also be defined as being too rich to know the difference between right and wrong. This condition actually saved him from serving a 20-year prison sentence for a serious mistake he made on June 15th. That night, Couch and some of his friends stole some beer from a local WalMart store. After consuming the alcohol, Couch drove his pickup truck to another location with his friends in tow. Just up the road, a woman had broken down in her vehicle. Two people who lived nearby were at the woman’s aid, along with another passerby. This is when Couch’s pickup truck slammed into the four people, killing all of them. Additionally, Couch injured two of his friends that were along for the ride that night. One can no longer move or talk due to the severity of the injuries he sustained. According to Couch’s criminal defense lawyer, he judge “fashioned a sentence that could have him under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years.” Couch ended up being charged with 4 counts of manslaughter by intoxication and 2 counts of assault by intoxication causing bodily injury. At his sentencing, he was ordered to 10 years probation and no prison time. As a part of his sentence, Couch was ordered to an in-patient rehab center near Newport Beach. His family will spend the yearly fee of $450,000 to have him stay there. Additionally, should Couch violate his probation terms, he could face up to 10 years in jail.
Sentencing guidelines for this type of crime in Texas call for fines up to $10,000 and between 2 and 20 years in a state prison. The lenient sentence handed down could be due to Couch’s criminal defense lawyer calling upon psychologist Dick Miller to testify at the hearing. The doctor revealed many things about Couch and his family life that may have swayed the judge’s opinion of him. For instance, it was revealed that Couch’s parents were so lax in their discipline that they allowed the boy to start driving at age 13. They also gave Couch no punishment when he was 15 years old, and police officers found him inside a parked vehicle with a passed-out and naked 14 year old girl. The doctor completed his testimony by saying that Couch was “emotionally flat and needed years of therapy.” The doctor clearly holds that defendants fare better through rehabilitation services rather than jail-time.
In the same county one month after this deadly accident occurred, a 19 year old pleaded guilty to the same crime, intoxication manslaughter. His carelessness ended up claiming the lives of 3 people. Instead of probation, that young man was sentenced to 8 years in prison and he will have to serve at least 6 of those years before he will be eligible for parole. Furthermore, the same judge who presided over Couch’s case has handed down heavy sentences including ten years for a punch that killed a stranger and ten years for robberies at a Halloween party which lead to one injury. Clearly, Couch’s sentence is extremely lax compared to sentences given to others for similar crimes.
However, as most criminal defense lawyers are aware, despite how “clear-cut” a case may seem to onlookers, there is always the possibility that weak arguments are made against a defendant or the state prosecutors may make mistakes. Especially when handling cases related to driving while intoxicated, authorities are required to follow certain and specific protocols. If they do not follow these standards, any case against the defendant may hold less water in court. This is another reason why each and every case should require careful and meticulous review by the criminal defense lawyer who is handling it. Another challenge in defending this type of case is being able to convince a jury to look beyond the fact that lives have been lost and focus on the facts of the case to determine the fate of a defendant.
For those charged with this type of case, it will be very important to speak with and hire a criminal defense lawyer who completely understands all the issues and complexities that go along with the charges. The Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyers at The Mace Firm spends a significant amount of time in criminal courts throughout all over the United States. There are criminal lawyers all over the country, but few practice criminal defense in Charleston, Miami, Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island, Surfside Beach, Columbia and several other areas.
If you or someone you know is facing federal criminal or state criminal charges, you will need to speak with an experienced Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer. A criminal defense lawyer at The Mace Firm is ready to speak with you about your case. Call one of our criminal defense attorneys to schedule your free consultation.