California Lawmaker Seeks to Stop Affluenza Defense in DUIs


Last month in Texas, 16-year-old Ethan Couch was sentenced to ten years of probation for a drunk driving accident that killed four pedestrians and seriously injured two others. Prosecutors on the case had sought 20 years. Couch’s defense attorneys, however, were successful in arguing that the teen suffered from “affluenza” and therefore could not appreciate the consequences of poor decisions. The defense had called a psychologist to testify that the affluent background by his parents gave Couch the “freedoms no young person should have.”

State Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) would like to make sure that the “affluenza defense,” as it’s become known, does not influence California DUI cases.

“It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that the relatively lenient sentence that this gentleman in Texas received will lead attorneys to see this is something to use in their overall tool box,” said Gatto.

The California lawman has written legislation that would prevent defense attorneys from asserting the affluenza defense. Gatto’s bill, which was introduced on Tuesday, defined the defense as “the notion that an affluent or overly permissive upbringing prevents a defendant from fully understanding the consequences of criminal actions.”

AB1508 “would forbid a judge or jury from reducing the sentence of a defendant who claims that being raised in a wealthy or excessively lenient household somehow explains or absolves that defendant’s guilt,” according to a news release.

While I do agree that an affluent upbringing might create a disconnect between actions and consequences, I don’t agree with the affluenza defense when the court is quick to throw the book at other people whose environment causes of a disconnect between actions and consequences.

Isn’t it just as plausible that someone with a poor upbringing, whose parents were never home or could give guidance, could not appreciate the consequences of their poor decisions? Couldn’t they, just as easily, call a psychologist to testify that they, too, had freedoms that no young person should have?

 

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