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Affluenza in Washington - Does the Crime Fit the Time?

Judge-Gavel-3083812.jpgShaun Goodman, a Washington State resident, was recently sentenced to one week of work release after being convicted of drinking and driving for the 7th time. Goodman was arrested back in December 2013 for driving 100 mph throughout downtown Olympia, Washington. Goodman crashed into two cars and a house before being apprehended by the police by force.

Under the work release sentence, Goodman will be able to spend his days freely before returning to a Thurston County Jail to sleep. His defense attorney argued that his business would fail and his employees would be out of a job if he was not present for work. Last Friday, demonstrators gathered at the courthouse where Goodman was sentenced to protest what they called a slap on the wrist. The protesters claim that Goodman -- who was driving a Ferrari valued at $70,000 the night of his crash and arrest -- was given special treatment because he is wealthy.

"It's not fair that there's a two-tiered legal system, one for those with money and another for those without," Sam Miller, one of the organizers of the protest, told the Seattle Times.

Goodman's sentence is similar to a recent Texas drunk driving case ruling of an affluent 16-year-old Ethan Couch who killed four people and injured two when he caused a car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol. Couch was sentenced to 10 years of probation and a treatment program in lieu of spending 20 years in jail upon conviction.

Gary Miller, a psychologist assigned to Couch in court stated that the teen "never learned that sometimes you don't get your way. He had the cars and he had the money. He had the freedoms that no young man would be able to handle." The psychologist identified the behavior as "affluenza syndrome."

Based on the psychological evaluation, his attorney appealed to state District Judge Jean Boyd that the teen needed rehabilitation and not prison. The attorney argued that Couch's upbringing made it impossible for him to exercise reasonable judgment regarding social situations.

An outcry for justice poured throughout the internet after the ruling was made. Several members of the public felt that the ruling was unjust and that the teen should have been required to serve time.

The significance of these two sentences illustrates how some judges tend to be more lenient when sentencing wealthy/affluent citizens. Though no one died in Goodman's case, it is rare for a repeat drunk driver to be sentenced to work release under most state laws, especially Michigan.

For example, in Washtenaw County, a repeat drunk driver (example - 6 prior drunk driving convictions) would serve time in jail or prison (depending on the nature of the case), be subject to mandatory treatment as well as probation or parole, have his/her license revoked, and be required to pay hefty fines/penalties.

Additionally, in Florida, 3 Broward County judges have been arrested this year for driving drunk. None of the judges have yet to be sentenced, but I would not be surprised if all 3 of them received a slap on the wrist.

Do you think the sentencing the individuals received above is fair or unfair? What about the judges' conduct? Contact me if you have been arrested for drunk driving in the Ann Arbor area .

Sources

Texas Drunk Driving Case Ruling Generates Outrage on the Internet

Shaun Goodman, Wealthy Man With 7th DUI Arrest, Gets Light Sentence

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