Last week, a 16-year-old Texas teen was sentenced to 10 years' probation but no jail time for killing four people and injuring several others while driving drunk. His defense? He suffered from affluenza, a condition where because of his family’s wealth, he couldn’t appreciate that his actions have consequences.
Like many of you, we were appalled and shocked by the court’s decision. These victim families have been given a lifelong sentence of grief and loss, and the young man who caused this pain walks away with probation. We are concerned that this sentence sends the wrong message to others about the crimes of drunk driving and underage drinking, which are both extremely dangerous and 100 percent preventable.
Sadly, we can’t change the legal outcome of this case, but we will continue to support these families who feel victimized all over again – this time by the justice system that they trusted to do the right thing. We have also reached out to the judge who handed down the sentence and requested a meeting to discuss how the sentencing of offenders impacts how society views the crime of drunk driving.
Our hope is that this case reignites the conversation about the tragic realities of drunk driving and the continuing battle we must wage every day to ensure that our courts treat it as the violent crime that it is. That is why we continue to expand our court monitoring program across the country, to encourage a criminal justice system that is transparent and accountable for its actions.
A court monitor sits in on court proceedings and records the outcome. MADD then uses these reports to detect patterns and track discrepancies in how DUI laws are being applied. But we could use your help. We largely rely on volunteers to perform this very important task. If you would like volunteer as a court monitor, fill out and submit our online volunteer application.