Local attorney says 'affluenza defense' could be difficult to defend in Arkansas

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The "affluenza defense" used to help a teen escape jail time is being questioned by some mental health and legal professionals.

Mooney Law Firm attorney Matthew Lunde says the affluenza defense used by Ethan Couch's lawyers is one that could be hard to successfully defend in Arkansas.

"With the prosecutors we have here who are very skilled, with the judges we have here who are very skilled and even with the skilled attorneys I think it would be difficult to raise this," he said.

"That expert witness testified essentially to the fact that based off parental factors, socio and economic factors, other things regarding this minor child and I'll still call him a minor child since he was 16. Some people have called it the spoiled brat syndrome, that there was no responsibility, that there was no consequences, that there was no level of understanding I think even to the gravity of his consequences should something happen."

Lunde also says the repercussions could involve more than just punishing the minor.

"In the state of Arkansas if a minor goes in to get a driver's license the parent or responsible adult who has some sort of authority or custody over that child has to go in and sign on behalf of that child. I do believe, without knowing Texas law, that if this was in the state of Arkansas that the parents of this child would face an extreme liability from a monetary standpoint."

He says the Texas judge's sentence of 10 years probation and one year in rehab is an example of constantly evolving interpretations of federal and state laws.

"I would be very willing to bet that 15 or 20 years ago people never would've even thought possibly to raise this defense, but now because of the things that are taking place in society it seems more of an acceptable defense or something that I think can be seen as a valid defense for someone in this child's position."

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