Infamous “affluenza” teenager who killed four through vehicular manslaughter was arrested in Mexico Monday evening.
According to USA Today, Ethan Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, were in Puerto Vallarta at a resort. However, this serene scene was in direct violation of his probation.
In June 2013, Couch, then 16 years old, killed four people in a drunk driving accident. CBS News reported that his blood alcohol level was three times the legal adult limit. Additionally, traces of the anxiety drug, Valium, were found in his system. However, the case gained national attention when an expert witness for the defense cited a condition called “affluenza” as an explanation for his actions.
Popularized in the 1990s in Jessie O’Neill’s The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence, affluenza refers to the idea that affluence is an affliction for which access and wealth cause bad behavior.
“I don’t think it’s going to have legs legally, Los Angeles-based attorney Areva Martin told USA Today at the time of the trial. “I just don’t believe wholesale judges are going to start letting wealthy kids who murder people go off to expensive rehab facilities in lieu of jail time.”
Unfortunately, Martin was wrong. Although “affluenza” is not an officially recognized diagnosis, that did not deter its successful use in Couch’s case. A judge ruled that Couch serve 10 years probation, including rehab, for his actions.
However, on Dec. 10, Couch and his mother disappeared. As a result, there has been an international manhunt for his arrest. Since their capture, the two have been detained and handed to immigration authorities for their deportation back to the United States.
Time will tell what will happen in the case of Couch. We can only hope that court will see “affluenza” doesn’t stop someone from committing a crime, and that the only way to rectify the situation is to actually hold someone like Couch accountable so that he can’t have the option of breaking the law yet again.