“Affluenza:” A Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card for the Wealthy?

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Poverty & Law, Public4 Comments on “Affluenza:” A Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card for the Wealthy?

Recently, news programs and papers have been flooded with stories regarding the 16 year-old boy from Texas, whose drunk-driving incident this past summer left four people dead, and a handful of people injured. The most troubling aspect of these stories for most people is the fact that the boy had received a very lenient sentence, a mere ten years’ of probation and some therapy, instead of the jail time that the prosecution asked for. The boy had been drinking prior to the accident, and his blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was about three times over the legal limit, not to mention the fact that an underage minor should have no alcohol in his system. The defense claimed that the boy suffered from what has been termed “affluenza,” which is defined as a condition where children who are from a wealthy and affluent background may not understand that “bad behavior has consequences.” (according to the Los Angeles Times). By touting the need for rehabilitation over a prison sentence, the defense was able to get the boy ten years’ probation, instead of the sentence sought for him.

This story has conjured up a lot of anger across the nation, and has left many people in shock over the fact that this seems to be one more case where the wealthy seem to be able to find their way around the legal system and be treated much more leniently than people of less affluent backgrounds. Many people believe that the outcome may have been different if the boy had not been wealthy, and this has created an outrage over the sense of entitlement that the teen was believed to have gotten. “Affluenza” is not a recognized disorder, but it has received national attention through this story. However, this “condition” that the boy’s defense team believed the teen suffered from prompts us to ask other questions: Don’t some people who live in impoverished conditions also suffer from the inability to see the consequences of certain actions, which is the same argument that “affluenza” gives for wealthy people, just at the opposite end of the spectrum? Should “affluenza” be recognized as a “trump card” of sorts for the wealthy, when others could just as likely have a similar argument about knowing right from wrong? Continue reading ““Affluenza:” A Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card for the Wealthy?”

The Skills I Use in Law School, I Learned From Third Graders

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Marquette Law School, Public2 Comments on The Skills I Use in Law School, I Learned From Third Graders

When I first came to law school, I thought that I was at a disadvantage compared to a lot of my peers. Instead of coming straight to law school out of undergraduate studies, I had been an elementary school teacher for about three years before I decided to return to school to study law. I did not have an undergraduate degree in anything related to the law, politics, or even social sciences. I had never set foot in a law firm office before. The only exposure that I had had to the law was mostly through the depictions seen on television and in the movies.

While some of my peers had taken courses to prepare them for the study of law, I was making macaroni pictures with third graders and teaching them about division and grouping. While most pre-law students spent time with counselors to prepare them for the law school journey, I was attending teacher conferences and working with guided reading groups in the classroom. Continue reading “The Skills I Use in Law School, I Learned From Third Graders”

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