A recent drunk driving case made national headlines because of the controversial and unpopular defense of the young teen who was involved. Although it was heard in another state, the case touches on some important topics that any person in New York could be dealing with as well.
It all started in June and begins to sound like many other cases involving juveniles who drink and drive. A young, 16-year-old kid and his friends stole some beer, got into the boy’s truck and he sped recklessly down the street. He crashed into four pedestrians, all of whom were killed. Reports indicate that the teen was very intoxicated at the time of the accident.
But what made this story different is the fact that the teen comes from a wealthy family.
The boy’s attorney argued that the family’s affluence created a disconnected, indulgent environment in which the young man did not have proper understanding that his actions had consequences. According to a psychologist, the boy was living in a situation where his parents argued constantly and were extremely focused on their divorce, leaving their son without critical guidance and supervision. It is a condition that was referred to as “affluenza.”
Because of these circumstances, a judge ruled that the teen would benefit more from intensive substance abuse rehabilitation and therapy than the 20-year prison sentence that was at stake. He will also be on probation for 10 years.
Many people argue that his family’s wealth is the reason the young boy did not face harsher punishments. But there are some important factors in this case that have less to do with money and more to do with how young people are punished for mistakes. Juveniles can be immature, reckless and impulsive, regardless of financial standing. At a young age, any child has difficulty understanding the long-term consequences of their actions.
But because they are at such a critical phase in life, young people have the ability to learn from their mistakes and the time to make serious changes. Given the proper resources, tools and support, young people can learn more from counseling and treatment than they can from years behind bars. Prison often is not the appropriate place for these young people. This can be important for New York families to remember if their child is in a similar situation and facing DWI charges.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Affluenza Defense: Rich Texas Teen Gets Probation For Killing 4 Pedestrians While Driving Drunk,” Dec. 12, 2013