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Texas teen only gets probation after fatal drunk driving crash

A recent drunk driving case in Texas has gained the attention of the media, defense attorneys, prosecutors and the general public across the country. A 16-year-old teenager from Texas was charged with intoxicated manslaughter after he hit and killed four pedestrians while driving drunk.

The teen could have faced up to 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence in Texas. The prosecutors in the case were seeking a 20 year prison sentence but were shocked to hear that the teen would be serving no time in prison for his drunk driving offense. 

The judge shocked the prosecutors and people throughout the country when he sentenced the teenager to 10 years of probation for the fatal drunk driving accident. What led to the teen getting a much less severe sentence than a majority of drunk driving defendants in Texas in previous cases?

Many are saying that the defense attorney's argument of "affluenza" may have significantly impacted the judge's sentencing. Affluenza is a term often used to describe wealthy children who use their wealth and sense of entitlement to excuse bad behavior. 

The defense attorney had a psychologist testify that the teenager should not be sentenced to 20 years in prison due to how he grew up. He said that the teen grew up with his parents always arguing and eventually getting divorced. He also cited that the teen's actions were a result of "affluenza," and that he shouldn't receive the maximum penalty as he is only 16.

It appears that the judge took the defense's argument to heart since the defendant received only probation instead of serving any time in prison. Many people in the media and public were outraged at the light sentence the defendant received for intoxicated manslaughter, saying that his sentence was just a slap on the wrist instead of an actual punishment.

This case is an example of the different outcomes defendants can face after being charged with drunk driving or intoxicated manslaughter in Texas. People facing DUI charges should be aware of the different defense strategies to take as there may be other factors that contributed to their actions, just like this case shows.  

Source: King 5, "Texas teen gets light sentence for fatal DUI after 'spoiled brat' defense," Ramit Plushnick-Masti, Dec. 13, 2013

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Scott H. Palmer, P.C. Attorney at Law

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