Affluenza Rampant in the Legal System

By Chris Mudd, Eagle Life Writer

Shaun Goodman, a wealthy man from Olympia, Washington, was arrested after leading police on a 100 mph chase with a blood alcohol level of 0.16, twice the legal limit.

After his hearing, he was sentenced to one year of work release.

While the lack of jail time has spawned protests in the Olympia area, a work release sentence comes with a very strict set of rules.

“Work release means that he will be living in a secure facility, under supervision, and is allowed to leave during specified hours to go to his job,” said Dr. Dale Lindekugel, professor in the criminal justice department at EWU. “It’s a lot like jail time in terms of being supervised by the state in his living arrangement but also is intended to not break the offender’s ties to the community.”

This is the latest crime attributed to affluenza, or the idea of not realizing the consequences of dangerous actions due to wealth, upbringing and privilege.

“Of course, if this is a legitimate defense, why can’t the serial murderer who was raised in an abusive household use it?” Said Dr. Jonathan Anderson, associate dean of the college of social and behavioral science and social work at EWU.

In December 2013, a 16 year old from Texas was sentenced to probation after his drunk driving killed four people. His lawyer testified that the teen had no scope of how dangerous his actions were due to the upbringing he received where wealth could buy his way out of any situation.

“It’s not fair that there’s a two-tiered legal system: one for those with money and another for those without,” Sam Miller, a protest organizer told the Seattle Times.

In 2012, Washington state made  30,501 arrests for driving under the influence. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that the highest drunk driving rate, 23.4 percent, occurs within the ages of 21 to 25 year olds.

The National Department of Transportation reports that one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders.

EWU lists consequences for driving under the influence on their website, claiming that driving while intoxicated will be met with at least 48 hours in jail, potentially up to 365 days, as well as a fine anywhere between $500 to $5,000.