“Affluenza Defense”

As we were talking about the harsher sentences for crack cocaine than powder cocaine in class today, and discussing how the legal system treats some people very different from others, it reminded me of this case I had read about a couple years ago.

Ethan Couch, a super-rich, white, 16 year old from Texas took his truck out with some friends and stole beer, then proceeded to drunk drive around his town eventually killing four innocent people when he crashed in to them on the side of the road.

Instead of jail time, Couch only received probation after the judge ruled that he suffered from “affluenza”; basically, he grew up so rich and spoiled that he didn’t know how to behave properly and never developed good judgment. This is an utterly ridiculous (but very true) illustration of the legal system bailing out another wealthy, white male. I highly doubt that if a lower class person of color committed this same crime that they would be let off with the same punishment.

Here is a link to a short Time article about the case:


“Affluenza Defense”

5 thoughts on ““Affluenza Defense”

  1. It’s really ridiculous what white, wealthy people get away with. A poor black person would never get away with a crime by making the case that they were a product of their environment. I think people see the crimes of rich, white kids and see it as a mistake, or they see a person who can be rehabilitated to become a good citizen. Poor black kids are seen as essentially criminal, needing to be contained and monitored, and they aren’t seen as capable of adding any value to society.

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  2. That is horrible! There is no excuse or justification for taking the lives of innocent people especially when the suspect is driving under the influence. It makes me so angry, yet it definitely shows how the legal system fails us in so many ways. It also makes me curious about the demographics of the 4 innocent victims. Race and class play a big role in our society. Recently, it seems like it has been a bigger issue than ever before with the several cases of police officers shooting and killing unarmed men.


  3. That is absolutely absurd. Like you stated, had this been a someone of color from a lower income area who had committed such a crime, they probably would have received a much worse sentence. It is shocking that this guy was only let off with probation. In my opinion, I can’t believe that the judge felt that it was justified for Ethan to get probation after the crime he committed. Four innocent lives were lost. If Ethan (a rich white kid) who committed a horrible crime is given the chance to “rehabilitate’ himself by getting of with probation, shouldn’t we be doing that with everyone who commits a crime? Although they would deny it being racism or segregation, I definitely think racism and segregation is a huge issue. It is just appalling to me that he wasn’t punished. I think cases like these white privileged people think they can essentially get away with anything and this case proves it.
    I have another example of a friend of mine who was killed by a drunk driver a few years ago. The driver was an older white guy who was very wealthy and never received any jail time for killing him. It just goes to show you how unjust the system is.


  4. It’s crazy how white privilege can play a big role on how the system punishes a person. I remember when I heard this story I was so upset. It’s an unfair system. Whenever events occur in which someone of privilege has done something bad, I wonder if that person was replace with someone who lacks those privileges, would the punishment be the same. I highly doubt it.


  5. I remember reading about this when it came out!
    The other absurd part of this whole trial was that the same judge sentenced an even younger black boy to juvenile detention for murdering someone.
    It’s actually really sad that things like this are still happening and those with money can get away with it. Sadly for those who get into the system, it’s so hard to get out. You won’t be able to get away with much with a blemish on your record.


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