affluenza dui
Is affluenza a justifiable defense to a DUI?

Businessman Shaun Goodman was recently arrested in Olympia, Wash. for his seventh DUI. According to Policy Mic, Goodman’s blood alcohol content level was 0.16%, which is twice the legal limit in Washington. Police reported that he was traveling 100 mph before he hit two cars and crashed into the side of a house.1

Judge James Dixon of Thurston County Superior Court said in response to the incident, “This is akin to an individual with a loaded gun walking through downtown firing rounds.” Nonetheless, Goodman was only sentenced to one year of work release and no jail time. Even after the crime occurred, he was able to post $75,000 bail and fly to New York to watch the Super Bowl.2

A local resident told KMO News in Washington that the judge’s decision came because he felt Goodman is, “an important businessman in the community, and it wouldn’t be fair for him and his employees to suffer if he went to real jail.”3

A Similar Case

This defense has been successfully used in the past. In fact, this defense was used to sentence a Texas teenager, Ethen Couch, to a less than easy punishment several months ago. In this case, Couch was charged for allegedly killing four people and severely injuring two while driving drunk. Couch’s attorney argued that he suffered from “affluenza,” the product of wealthy privileged parents who never set limits for the boy. As a result of this defense, the boy was given a mere sentence of drug rehabilitation4.

California’s DUI Laws (VC 23152(a))

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a), a DUI conviction can result in substantial jail time. You are typically only convicted of DUI when your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or higher. However, you can still receive a DUI if your blood alcohol concentration is lower than 0.08% and are under the influence of drugs.

To find you guilty of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a prosecutor will aggressively try to prove that:

  • You drove a vehicle;
  • You were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs when you drove the vehicle; and
  • As a result of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you were not able to drive the vehicle with ordinary care.

Consequences of a Repeat DUI Conviction

If you are arrested for any subsequent DUI charges after your first DUI, you could be charged with a felony. In order to find you guilty of felony DUI, a prosecutor needs to prove the following:

  • That you drove;
  • You were driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher; and
  • You had at least three prior DUI convictions.5

Depending on the facts of your case, penalties for receiving multiple DUI convictions could include:

  • Up to 16 months, two or four years in prison;
  • Up to $1,000 in fines; and
  • A four-year revocation of your driver’s license in California.6

What Wallin and Klarich Law Firm Thinks

Goodman’s light sentence for his seventh DUI gives members of the community the right to be upset. There is no question that he should have received a much harsher sentence regardless of how much money he makes.

If crashing into the side of a house after hitting two cars isn’t enough to land you in jail, what is? The court’s decision to essentially let him free without facing significant punishment shows a lack of consistency in our criminal justice system.

It also reflects a much larger issue in our country. The gap between the rich and poor has continually increased over the past decade. Allowing the richest members of our community to get away with crimes only highlights society’s reluctance to give everybody an equal chance.

Let Us Hear Your Opinion

Do you think Goodman’s money played a factor in his sentencing? Do you think he should’ve been punished more harshly? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts on DUI and how “affluenza” impacts the court process.


1. http://www.policymic.com/articles/89581/protesters-storm-a-washington-court-house-after-the-latest-case-of-affluenza

2. Id.

3. Id

4. http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/05/us/texas-affluenza-teen/

5. http://www.dmv.org/ca-california/automotive-law/dui.php

6. Id.

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