Over the years, many residents of Missouri and elsewhere have brought up the topic of an unfair disparity in the consequences wealthy and influential people face in criminal charges, as opposed to those who have little money and few resources. Some may be concerned that those with more money can afford a better defense or may sway the judge to give them a more preferable sentence than others who were accused of similar crimes. The latest news regarding a well-publicized drunk driving case may serve as an example of this viewpoint.
Readers may remember the case of the “affluenza” teen, who was sentenced to 10 years of probation and alcohol treatment after a drunk driving accident when he was 16 years old, which killed four people and injured others. After a defense that claimed his wealthy upbringing left him without a full understanding of the consequences of his actions, some claimed his family’s status also influenced the judge’s decision. The boy later violated the terms of his probation by drinking at a party, and he fled to Mexico with his mother. Now 20, he was recently released after serving almost two years in jail, and he is scheduled to serve six more years of probation under strict supervision.
This case may also present the point that it is crucial to seek an effective and experienced defense, especially when the one accused of a crime is a minor. Regardless of wealth or family circumstances, young people may not be able to comprehend the outcome of their actions, especially if they are being influenced by their peers.
Source: NPR, “‘Affluenza’ Driver Out On Probation After Nearly 2 Years In Jail,” Vanessa Romo, April 2, 2018