The Law Offices of John Phebus

Affluenza drunk driving case back in the news

Arizona residents likely remember a 2013 drunk driving case that created a media frenzy when attorneys defending a Texas teen claimed that their client suffered from affluenza and should not be jailed for causing an accident that killed four people. Recently released deposition tapes connected with a civil lawsuit have put the case in the news once again, and they reveal previously unknown details about the teen's privileged upbringing.

The Texas teen's parents remained silent when the case first made headlines in 2013, but they can be heard answering questions under oath on the deposition tapes. They admit that they spoiled their son, and they claim that their behavior was borne out of guilt for quarreling in front of him. Psychologists testified at the teen's trial that being told by his parents that poor decisions and bad behavior did not matter for the wealthy had left the boy dysfunctional and unable to make morally correct decisions.

News outlets depicted the teen as a spoiled brat who had no regard for the safety of others when he got behind the wheel of his father's pickup truck after a night of drinking with friends. Police say that the truck was traveling at close to 70 mph on narrow rural roads before striking a group of people that had been standing next to a disabled vehicle. The judge was sympathetic to the arguments made by the teen's defense attorneys, and the boy was sentenced to probation and alcohol rehab.

The penalties for drunk driving can be severe, and this is particularly true if an injury accident occurs. Criminal defense attorneys may seek to have drunk driving charges reduced or dismissed by bringing mitigating factors to the attention of judges or prosecutors. Such factors could include the defendant's upbringing, previous record of good behavior and genuine remorse.

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