By now, many Houston residents have heard about the teenager who was sentenced only to probation after causing a drunk driving accident that resulted in four deaths last summer. The case has garnered national media attention as many people are outraged about the seemingly lax sentence.
The tragic accident took place in June when the teenager got behind the wheel of a pickup truck while his blood-alcohol level was about three times the legal limit. He crashed the pickup into a group of people who had stopped to assist a woman who was having car trouble. That woman and three of those who stopped to help her were killed. Nine other people suffered injuries in the car accident.
The teen entered guilty pleas to multiple counts of intoxicated manslaughter and prosecutors aimed for a 20-year jail sentence. But, a psychologist who testified at the trial stated that the teen had many problems, and that he did not understand that actions resulted in consequences. The teen came from a very wealthy family, and although he had previous run-ins with the law, he was never punished and never really learned the true ramifications of his actions, the psychologist explained.
The judge then went against the recommendations of the prosecutors and sentenced the teenager to 10 years of probation as well rehab.
Many people, including the families of the victims, believe that justice has not been served in this case. It is not clear at this point whether the sentence will be appealed.
In this case, and others involving fatal accidents, the loved ones of the victims may also choose to pursue justice by filing wrongful death claims, which can result in compensation. Of course, people often should expect drunk drivers to be held accountable to the fullest extent allowed by law under both the criminal and the civil systems.
Source: USA Today, “No jail for ‘affluenza’ teen in fatal crash draws outrage,” Feb. 6, 2014