Legislators hope to keep affluent circumstances out of courtroom sentencing

For months the media have doggedly generated headlines from the case of Ethan Couch. In December 2013, the Texas teen pled guilty to drinking and driving, and killing four people, using the affluenza defense of being swaddled into not being responsible for any of his actions during his upbringing.

Texas lawmakers disagree with the validation of this fabricated disease, and want to ban the defense from ever being used in court again. State representatives feel the decision was not only fundamentally flawed, but an insult to the criminal justice system. James White, a state representative from southeast Texas, introduced a bill to keep such financial circumstances out of the courtroom during sentencing. White is not the only representative to file such a bill. There are two others up for consideration.

The prevailing opinion of those focused on legal matters is that this so-called defense has made people distrust the justice system even more. How is such a defense valid for a defendant with money and for the less wealthy who commit a crime?

Although legislation banning this type of defense may be helpful, it is just as likely that it will cause problems down the road if it is challenged and goes to court for interpretation. It was certainly a creative defense, and achieved its goal of getting the boy into rehabilitation instead of jail, with 10 years of probation.

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