What Do You Think of Affluenza — the Criminal Defense of the Wealthy?

Photo (cc) by yomanimus

What do you think about the affluenza defense — used when a wealthy person has been charged with a crime?

Not familiar with it? It was recently used in the case of a 16-year-old from a rich Texas family who admitted he was drunk when his pickup ran into four pedestrians and killed them. The judge earlier this month sentenced him to 10 years of probation, plus therapy, which his parents will pay for. The treatment facility in California reportedly costs more than $450,000 a year.

Here’s where affluenza comes in, says the Los Angeles Times:

Prosecutors had sought 20 years in prison. But the defense argued that therapy was more appropriate and put a psychologist on the stand who testified about affluenza, a condition, he said, that could afflict someone from a wealthy background from understanding that bad behavior has consequences.

The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize affluenza as a diagnosis, and many psychologists dispute that it exists as a mental health condition. Even psychologist G. Dick Miller, the expert witness for the defense who said the teen was suffering from affluenza, later told reporters that he regretted his choice of words.

I guess this means that only those who aren’t wealthy are responsible for their actions. Plenty of the non-rich have been sentenced to prison for killing people while driving drunk.

The case has prompted plenty of online comment. Wrote lawyer Scott Candoo in a snarky column in The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash.:

Wow! Probation? Sweet! How does one get affluenza? Is it contagious? Can I buy it somewhere?

Next time I get stopped by a police officer, I’ll just act like Richie Rich, look down my nose at the officer, give him (or her) a condescending attitude, and with a slight English accent tell the officer my parents were rich and trained me to be like this, so “Just bugger off.”

Op-ed contributor James McAuley wrote in The New York Times that few seem outraged where the boy lives:
The disparity between the televised outrage over what was perhaps the cleverest legal argument since the “Twinkie defense” and the relative local indifference to the role of wealth in insulating the guilty from justice illuminates how much of North Texas itself has been constructed for the purpose of insulating wealth from any unpleasant reality. Why should criminal justice be any different?

Another issue is whether other rich kids will think their wealth insulates them from the consequences of their crimes.

Five lawsuits have been filed against the teen, his father and his father’s business as a result of the fatal crash, says the local NBC station.

What are your thoughts on the affluenza defense? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Karen Datko contributed to this post.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Have You Heard of This Best Place to Retire in 2020?
Have You Heard of This Best Place to Retire in 2020?

The best place to retire in America is one you likely are not familiar with.

5 Surveys For Money Sites To Get Paid For Your Opinion
5 Surveys For Money Sites To Get Paid For Your Opinion

Yes, you can earn extra cash by taking online surveys. But some websites are better than others for this. Here are a few of our favorites.

10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable
10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

9 Products That Will Organize Your Home for Under $45
9 Products That Will Organize Your Home for Under $45

These clever Amazon finds can help transform a messy nest into the pristine home of your dreams.

12 Tech Gadgets That Make Daily Life Easier
12 Tech Gadgets That Make Daily Life Easier

These products on Amazon will ease worries and simplify your routine.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money
17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money

You probably don’t realize these items are worth decent cash.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners
8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Some of these deductions and credits are available to a wide swath of homeowners.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire
These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire

If you expect to have modest retirement income, you may want to avoid spending your golden years here.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.