Are Affluent People Treated Differently In Drunk Driving Cases?

Although incidences of drunk driving happen in states across the nation, some DUI cases capture national attention better than others. This is often because these cases present an issue that is not just specific to one state but is something that can be addressed in other states as well. Take for example the infamous ‘affluenza’ case out of Texas. While this case happened far from Washington’s jurisdiction, it raised questions about the treatment of affluent people in DUI cases.

Now, months later, a case out of Olympia is raising those same questions. You may have already heard about the case in which a man was arrested and charged with drunk driving after a police chase in December 2013. After careful consideration, a Thurston County judge sentenced him to a year of work release with no jail time. It was a sentence that did not sit well with some people in the community.

According to a group of protestors in the area, the man was given special treatment because he was rich. Just like in the case of the ‘affluenza’ teen, the man was given a lesser sentence. The protestors believe this was unfair and pointed to his six prior DUI arrests as proof that affluent people are treated differently in drunk-driving cases.

But with criminal cases such as this, a judge’s duty is not to provide the public with a sense of justice but rather to provide a fair trial to the person who is accused. When it came to sentencing, the judge likely considered the fact that no one was reported to have been hurt or killed in the incident. Also, the man is an important businessman in the community. Sending him to jail might have had a significant impact on his business, which would in turn have affected his workers as well.

And as for those six DUI arrests that protestors are so angry about, reports do not indicate if prosecutors even followed through with pressing charges in those cases. This means that any following DUIs would not have incurred the stacking charges so many are used to seeing. In truth, this may have been the first DUI charge the man had been considered guilty of, which is why the lesser sentence may have been applied in this case and not because of his economic standing in the community.

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