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The use of a novel defense for DUI manslaughter

Ohio residents may recall the 2013 incident when a minor from Texas whose alcohol level registered three times the legal limit hit a group of individuals who were standing at the side of the road attending to a disabled vehicle, killing four of them. After a well-publicized trial, he was sentenced to 10 years probation and ordered to a rehab facility by the judge.

The defense in the case argued that the young man was a victim of so-called"affluenza" and, because of that, did not know the difference between right and wrong. According to the young man, he remembered little about the accident. He testified in a deposition that he remembered waking up in a hospital bed. A psychologist who was hired by the parents and testified in the case, said that the parents were dysfunctional, and the son never learned that his actions might have repercussions. The psychologist said the boy was never given reasonable boundaries.

Reportedly, when the boy was younger and below the age to drive, a teacher at the school he was attending objected to his driving a motor vehicle to the school. The response from the boy's father allegedly was that he would buy the school or a similar remark. The boy ended up leaving the school and being home schooled. An attorney said that the boy had been in trouble with the law several months before the accident but was only given a summons, despite the fact that he had multiple charges.

An individual facing drunk driving violations may be subject to jail time, suspension of driver's license and fees associated with the charges. An attorney may assist by going over the charges, determine whether proper procedures were followed and mount a defense. The attorney may also work toward a plea agreement to lower charges and penalties.

Source: ABC News, "How an 'Affluenza' Label Was Used in DUI Manslaughter Case Involving Drunk Teen", Sean Dooley and Alexa Valiente, Oct. 14, 2015

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