Kansas City Criminal Defense Lawyers
What is the Affluenza Defense?

What is the Affluenza Defense?

Wealth comes with certain privileges, including using such financial standing as a legal defense when facing the criminal justice system.

The “affluenza” defense—coined by a psychologist named G. Dick Miller—is used by affluent defendants to show that growing up rich can make a person fail to grasp the consequences of their actions since wealth can essentially buy privilege. This type of defense is another form of the insanity defense, which a defendant would use to show they shouldn’t be imprisoned due to not understanding the difference between right and wrong, or knowing the consequences of their actions.

The affluenza defense was first used by Ethan Couch, who was 16 years old at the time he was accused of stealing beer, driving while intoxicated with a BAC level that was three times the legal limit, and then killing four people with his vehicle in Texas. He was charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault.

But instead of being charged as an adult, Couch was charged as a juvenile offender. Although the prosecution argued for a sentence of up to 20 years, Couch’s defense lawyer hired G. Dick Miller, who convinced the court the defendant “suffered” from affluenza because he could not comprehend what it meant to be accountable for his actions.

In the end, the judge only sentenced Couch to 10 years of probation and enrollment in a rehab program. In 2016, however, the probation was revoked after he attended a party that served alcohol and then fled to Mexico with his mother to avoid criminal penalties for violating the terms of his probation.

After serving two years in a Texas jail, he was released.

For more information about the affluenza defense, contact Stein Law, LLC today at (913) 583-0465 for a free case review.


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