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Teen's background cleared way for second chance after DUI crash

A common goal among parents is that they will raise their kids to know right from wrong. But to what extent can parents' jobs raising their kids be tied to their child's behavior? What about a child who is 16 and drives drunk?

Parents might internally take on some of the blame when their child breaks the law, but some are surprised that a criminal court has cited parenting as part of the reason for issuing a lenient sentence in a juvenile DUI homicide case. A teen defendant who confessed to causing a deadly drunk driving accident will serve no prison time.

Earlier this week, a Texas judge sentenced a juvenile to 10 years of probation, during which he reportedly will go through some form of treatment and counseling. As a teen, he will no longer live with his parents, who, as we mention above, are essentially blamed as the root cause of the DUI wreck.

The criminal defense team in the juvenile case relied on testimony from a psychologist who said that the defendant suffers from a condition called "affluenza." Coming from a wealthy family apparently impacted the boy's mental and emotional development, making it unlikely that he was able to reason before causing the accident that his actions have consequences.

That suggested lack of reasoning capability convinced the judge that the teen needs something other than imprisonment. Prosecutors tried to have the juvenile sentenced to the maximum 20 years in prison, which would explain their outrage against the sentence.

National news sources have also taken to this story and largely painted it as justice not served. However, it can be easy to forget that at the center of this serious case is a young teen. It is the responsibility of the legal system to try to protect minors from a corrections system that can severely thwart their future opportunity and ability to change into better people.

There is a lot at stake in juvenile crime cases, including in Colorado. Teens and their families need the representation of a defense lawyer as soon as possible in order to try to mitigate the impact that a charge will have on the young person's life.

Source: USA Today, "Texas teen's fatal DWI defense: 'Affluenza'," Dec. 12, 2013

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