In a story that drew national attention, and outrage, last week, 16 year old Ethan Crouch received the 10 years probation after he caused a fatal accident when driving under the influence. Families of the four deceased, including Eric Boyles who lost his wife and daughter, were shocked and angered that Crouch escaped prison time, and believe that the teenager received such a light punishment because of his family’s wealth and influence.
The sentence may have been heavily influenced by a psychology expert witness who testified that Mr. Crouch was a victim of “affluenza” – a term used to describe children of wealthy families who have a sense of entitlement that results in irresponsible and sometimes dangerous behavior – and therefore he did not deserve a prison sentence. Mr. Crouch’s expert witness testified that the young man grew up in a family that was too preoccupied to properly raise him, and as such he did not have a sense of accountability or respect that would have prevented him from drinking and driving during the night of the fatal crash.
In a piece by USA Today, the affluenza defense has been widely criticized by psychology experts across the country. Calling the defense a double standard for rich and poor, and saying the tactic is laughable because it simply reinforces the belief that the defendant is entitled to special protection, psychology experts have denounced Mr. Crouch’s expert witness. The affluenza defense testified to by the psychology expert witness in this case has drawn national attention, and derision, leaving many members of the psychology and legal fields to wonder if the system is truly blind to external, and irrelevant, factors such as the defendant’s wealth and social status.