Judge Claims "Affluenza" Defense Did Not Affect Her Decision
Affluenza is a term coined to describe a condition caused by the pursuit
of materialism. Many have called this the "Keeping Up with the Joneses"
condition. 17-year-old Ethan Couch's very public trial brought affluenza
to the public eye after driving drunk and killing four people. Rather
than jail time, Couch received 10 years' probation, sparking outrage
from the victims' families.
Throughout the teen's trial last year, his defense attorneys claimed
that Couch's upbringing led to his decision to drive while drunk.
Because his parents were wealthy and because Couch was used to getting
what he wanted, his attorneys claimed, he developed an impaired sense
At the time of his arrest, the teen's blood alcohol concentration was
more than three times the legal limit in Texas. He was also traveling
30mph over the speed limit. This was not Couch's first encounter with
the law. Earlier that same year, the teen pled "no contest"
to both minor in possession of alcohol and consuming alcohol as a minor.
Couch's attorneys called Psychologist G. Dick Miller to testify. Miller
provided evidence indicating that because his parents gave him so many
freedoms growing up, Couch was essentially missing the natural link in
his reasoning between behavior and consequences. While Miller did initially
use the word "affluenza" to describe his condition, Miller later
regretted it because he believed it downplayed the real medical problems
Although the judge chose probation in lieu of jail time for Couch's
sentence, she said that her decision was not influenced by the affluenza
defense. Instead, Judge Jean Boyd emphasized her belief that alcohol rehabilitation
was a more appropriate and likely a more effective penalty than incarceration
would have been.
Couch could potentially end up serving a jail sentence, but only if he
violates his probation. The terms of which include:
- Refraining from drugs and alcohol
- Refraining from operating a motor vehicle
- Attending rehabilitation for an undisclosed period of time
There is the possibility that Couch's sentence will be appealed.