California lawmaker introduces legislative cure for "Affluenza"

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A California lawmaker is working to make sure the punishment fits the crime for wealthy criminals.

This comes after a Texas teen was sentenced to probation instead of prison for killing four people while driving drunk last month.

 A psychologist in the case testified that 16-year-old Ethan Couch suffered from “Affluenza” which meant that Couch was the product of wealthy parents who never taught him the consequences of his bad behavior.

The punishment sparked nationwide outrage and led California Assemblyman Mike Gratto (D-Los Angeles)  to introduce AB 1508 on Tuesday. The proposed bill would forbid the use of “Affluenza” as a defense at trial or as a mitigating circumstance in post-trial sentencing.

“Perhaps the notion of personal responsibility seems antiquated to some, but I think the majority of us believe that people should own up to their actions, and that criminals should not be able to use their wealth or privilege to lessen the severity of their sentences. Spoiled children shouldn’t be able to spoil the chances of victims to obtain justice when a criminal act has occurred,” said Assemblyman Gatto.

But Bakersfield criminal and DUI attorney Jared Thompson with the Law Offices of Kyle J. Humphrey told 23ABC that while there are good intentions behind the bill, it's too severe.

“The impact is going to penalize people make it overly punitive and really what this bill would be aimed towards is putting more people in prison because it takes away an argument an attorney could make for their client,” said Thompson.

Thompson also believes that jail time isn't always the right punishment for young offenders in dui cases.

"They don't always appreciate the seriousness of what they're doing and those factors should always be brought up to a judge in a sentencing situation."

Gatto told the Los Angeles times he wants to be proactive instead of just reactive.




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