Sample Criminal Justice Case Study on Ethan Couch

Should Couch Get Probation or Go To Prison?

Sentence in a prison should have been the surest cure for affluenza in Ethan Couch actions that led to the death of four pedestrians. In the controversial case, the judge sentenced the teenager to a ten years’ probation in a rehabilitation center based in California. Ethan Couch reportedly stole alcohol in a warehouse and consequently killed pedestrians with a pickup. There is no doubt that the most appropriate remedy for this case ought to have been imprisonment because of the following identifiable four reasons; First and foremost, the association of American psychiatrists does not recognize affluenza as a diagnosis but the defense attorneys used it as the major basis of defense in Ethan Couch’s case. Secondly, the manner in which the judge handled the case implied that an immoral character can be used as a mitigation against criminal cases. Thirdly, the judgement set up double standards for both the poor and the rich as it implied that children from the rich families have the authority to drink and go ahead to drive (Hiller, 2005). Lastly, similar cases involving drunken teenagers causing accident to pedestrians were ruled in a different manner. In similar case, the defendants faced imprisonment of up to twenty years in prison. This paper supports the idea that probation was an inappropriate remedy for Ethan’s case. Instead, prison was a better remedy due to the above mentioned reasons. The paper discusses at length the reasons why Ethan Couch should be behind bars today instead of serving a ten-year probation.

Affluenza is a term used for describing a condition whereby a child, essentially from a wealthy family possess some sense of entitlement (Hiller, 2005). This implies that they are often irresponsible and give lame excuses to justify their bad behavior. Generally, children from wealthy families indulge in alcoholism and other drugs. After confessing to drunkenness and manslaughter, Judge Jean Boyd should have sentenced Ethan for up to twenty years but instead ruled a ten-year probation. The judge essentially slapped Ethan Couch on his wrist for an obviously serious crime. Although the parents are to blame for an irresponsible upbringing, the judge seemed to support them through her actions. The association of American psychologists does not believe that affluenza is a diagnosis implying that it is not legally acceptable for use a defense in a court of law. Despite being recognized as a diagnosis across America, affluenza succeeded as a defense mainly because of wealth possessed by Couch’s family. Later on, Couch violates probation rules and regulations after a video showing him taking alcohol goes viral. Drinking is a violation of probation rules and may lead to a sentence according to American laws. However, his family’s wealth continue being an immune to his character. Couch’s bleach of probation rules reaffirms the belief that affluenza is a defense especially for the rich.

The prosecutors had recommended for a maximum sentence in prison for the fatal accident that claimed four lives but the defense attorneys argued that a rehabilitation was Ethan needed, not prison. The Rich have a reputation of escaping murder cases in America as long as they pay. Most suspects evade murder because they are able to afford hiring excellent legal experts. Having money guarantees wealthy people justice as they are often ready to part with any amount as long as they get away with their offences. The testimony by Gary Miller, a renowned psychologist who testified before Judge Jean Boyd that Ethan Couch was a victim of affluenza. He argued that the family’s wealth prevented Ethan from learning what is right and wrong. At the time of judgement in 15th June, 2013, someone would have predicted that Ethan Could would land in jail. The probation remedy clearly demonstrated a failure in facing responsibility for such a serious offense that began with stealing alcohol to killing four innocent citizens. Couch is a criminal who should be in prison serving his term as we speak. In his wisdom, prosecutor Alpert Richard indicated in court that if the family continued cushioning Couch by its wealth, subsequent tragedies were inevitable. Research by Dr Luthar, a renowned psychologist specializing in the consequences of affluence demonstrated that. As part of her research conducted at the sub-urban communities of Columbia University, at least 20% of adolescents from wealthy families believe that their parents will assist them get out of trouble if they are caught in crime. Judge Jean Boyd reinforced this research in his ruling (Alarid & Del, 2011).

In a similar case, another sixteen years old teenager called Jaime Arellano ran a pickup into a group of pedestrians and killed four of them including a pregnant woman. The incident happened in June 2007 in the same district of Texas. The two cases in Texas demonstrate the manner in which a prosecutor’s decision in same cases is capable of leading to different wild results. While Couch Ethan who originated from a wealthy family got away with a mere ten-year probation, the poor teenager who was an immigrant from Mexico was imprisoned for twenty years. The two similar cases demonstrate how wealth influences justice and the manner in which wealth acts as an immune against destruction. There is no doubt, Couch ought to be prison serving his term as the facts of his affluenza case and the Mexican poor immigrant teenager were similar in all aspects. Both were charged with manslaughter and intoxication charges implying that ruling also ought to have been similar. It means that Jaime Arellano’s sentence would have been shorter if his parents had money as his white counterpart.

The manner in which the judge handled the case implied that an immoral character can be used as a mitigation against criminal cases. Essentially, the remedy set a precedent that bad behavior can act as defense against an offense as long as you can afford to pay the best attorneys. The use of probation as a remedy leads to erosion of moral behavior thus reinforcing irresponsibility. Children from wealthy families feel that they can get away with anything as long as their parents are rich. Ethan Couch’s family arrogance is very offending that everybody would have recommended a life sentence to their son (Holt & Taibbi, 2013). The family’s attorneys demonstrated that Couch didn’t’ have to be imprisoned because he was from a rich background. Only a few people if any would call the results of the affluenza case justice. Couch got away with an imprisonment even after it was clear that his blood tested three times the legally acceptable beer limit at the time when the accident took place. Although Judge Jean Boyd indicated that she was not influenced by the affluenza defense, she only charged Couch for intoxication. She ran away from the major crime of manslaughter that could have landed the teenager in prison for a term of up to twenty years.

In summary, it is clear that probation was one of the most inappropriate remedy against Couch’s offenses. Anyone charged for intoxication and manslaughter is liable for a sentence in prison same way it occurred to Jaime Arellano. Couch’s charges ought to have been a twenty-year sentence in prison if only Judge Jean Boyd acted fairly, impartially and without fear. Affluenza was inappropriately used as a defense against Couch’s bad behavior although it is not recognized by American psychologists association (Siegel & Senna, 2009). Probation instead of a sentence in prison only confirmed that the rich have an added advantage compared to their poor counterparts which is not the case in reality. A sentence would on the other hand act as a big lesson to such a teenager’s life. Only a sentence would shape his character. Jaime Arellano initially believed that he would not have been sent to a twenty-year prison if he was a white but eventually he testifies that the sentence will serve to better him. He admits that it had to happen that way so that he may think better in the future. In a similar way, a sentence instead of a probation would make Couch a more responsible person who does not think that wealth is everything. It would make him realize his mistakes and avoid them in the future. A sentence would set a good precedent for others to use as a reference. From my point of view, a sentence in prison would have been the most appropriate remedy against offenses committed by Ethan Couch.



Alarid, L. F., & Del, C. R. V. (2011). Community-based corrections. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Before Affluenza Case Teen’s Family Tangled with the Law. (January 01, 2016). Accident Reconstruction Journal, 26, 1, 2-2.

Hiller, F. H. (2005). Adult probation laws of the United States. New York: National Probation Association.

Holt, L., & Taibbi, M. (2013). Is Being Rich a Legal Defense Against Killing?. New York: NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Siegel, L. J., & Senna, J. J. (2009). Essentials of criminal justice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.