Affluenza Defense No Longer Viable in the Hamptons

Can the affluenza defense still work?
Can the affluenza defense still work? Photo: RichLegg, ekinyalgin/iStock/Thinkstock

The recent behavior of a Texas Teen has just dealt a blow to local criminal defense attorneys.

Many ultra-wealthy East Enders and their attorneys have been following the Ethan Couch case for some time now. If you are not familiar with the details, Couch is the Texas kid who, at 16 years old, skirted serious jail time for manslaughter when his attorney successfully used an “affluenza” defense.

Without going into specifics, the young lad was deemed unable to differentiate between what was right and wrong because he had been raised in an affluent household without any consequences for his irresponsible behavior. His parents’ wealth created an environment where he thought he could get away with anything. And apparently he got away with killing four people when he crashed his truck while being heavily intoxicated.

In December 2013, Judge Jean Hudson Boyd sentenced Couch to 10 years’ probation and ordered him to therapy. Approximately two years later he was allegedly seen drinking alcohol, a violation of his probation, which could have sent him to prison. In an attempt to avoid potential incarceration for her son, Couch’s mom grabbed some cash and together they fled to Mexico.

However, their plan was not very well thought out and both of them were subsequently caught and extradited back to Texas, where the two of them stand charges.

How does this affect the Hamptons? I do not mean to compare our local upscale teen population’s actions to Mr. Couch’s unacceptable antics, but I do believe there are some families in our area that are raising children in a “bubble of privilege.” And there are some local attorneys who have been holding the affluenza card in their back pocket, waiting for an appropriate time to use it. After all, given the initial Couch verdict of probation for such a serious crime, there now exists a case precedent for using it as a defense strategy.

However, the most recent events and Couch’s apparent unrepentant actions, which are being played out in the media, will, doubtless, get judges to now think twice about letting the affluenza defense fly.

Instead, the person behind the bench will most likely think to himself or herself, “It didn’t help the young Couch lad in Texas, so it won’t help this defendant in the Hamptons. Some good old jail time is just what this kid needs.”

It’s tough enough being a defense attorney, especially when your clients are wealthy and expect positive outcomes in return for the vast amounts they are willing to pay in legal fees. With the Affluenza defense no longer viable, they are going to have to come up with something else.

Perhaps the “zombies took over my body” defense will work?

I guess another thought is for local well-to-do parents to start being more proactive in their children’s lives before they need the services of a criminal defense attorney? Now that’s a great legal strategy!

Read more blogs by Mr. Sneiv

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