Legal professionals in central Virginia are weighing in on the sentence for a 16-year-old Texas boy who killed four people in a drunk driving crash.
Almost everybody you ask is outraged by his sentence. The judge did not give him one day of prison time, instead - he got 10 years of probation. His attorneys claim he has something called "affluenza," meaning he is from an affluent family who gave him anything he wanted, so he has a sense of entitlement that he can get away with murder.
When Ethan Couch got behind the wheel in June, he had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .24, and he had taken Valium. After he hit and killed four people, he tried to run from the scene of the accident.
Couch went to court for the crime, and the prosecution asked for 20 years, but the judge gave probation and ordered him to an expensive rehab in California.
"It's disturbing. My first reaction upon hearing the result of this case was probably like many folks, my visceral reaction was: how could this happen? And I can only imagine if my family were involved," said Greg Webb, attorney at law in Charlottesville.
Webb represents people who've lost loved ones in wrongful death suits.
"Defenses are available to everyone charged with a crime. However, they're not accessible to everyone," said Webb.
He says this crime would typically carry heavy jail time and serious penalties, and that "affluenza" simply should not be a defense.
"To an underprivileged teenager as well, who had perhaps absentee parents for a different reason, however those parents would not be able to hire expensive lawyers and doctors and psychologists. There's the discrepancy in the judicial system," said Webb.
But justice might come in the form of the same money that seemingly got Couch off. The night of the accident, the crash also paralyzed one of the people in Couch's truck, and the other is in a coma. One family is now suing for around $20 million.
"That will impact how aggressively those cases are prosecuted on this civil side, so they will probably seek the full extent of any possible recovery allowed under Texas law," said Webb.
As far as whether this sets some kind of precedent, Webb says other attorneys might try it. But with the publicity surrounding this case, prosecutors will be ready.
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