Military Status and Affluenza – WTVM Legal Break

Injury & Accident Attorney Serving Nearby Areas of Columbus & Fort Benning, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama

Gary Bruce takes questions from local WTVM viewers in the Columbus and Phenix City area. One viewer would like to know what “affluenza” is, in light of the recent release of Ethan Couch, whose attorney used affluenza as a defense theory in a DUI case six years ago. As Gary explains, affluenza is a legal theory which claims that a defendant in a criminal case was so affluent or wealthy that he or she didn’t know their actions were criminal. This is not a legal defense, such as self-defense, but rather a theory of defense.

Another viewer would like to know whether it is considered discrimination if you are denied a position by an employer because of your military status. Military status, unlike race, disability, national origin, sex, and age, is not a protected class under the Constitution. Therefore, the denial of employment would fall under a rational basis theory of review. As long as the employer can show a rational basis for denying employment, the denial will not be considered discriminatory.

If you have been injured and have questions about your rights, please call The Law Offices of Gary Bruce at 706-786-4379 or email to set up a meeting and free, confidential consultation.


Narrator: Now answering your questions about the law and legal issues this is Legal Break with attorney, Gary Bruce.

Maureen: Hello and welcome and thank you for joining us again Gary, as always.

Gary: Great to be here.

Maureen: Some great questions again today, we’re going to get right to them. We’ve got a man on the street question.

Question One: Hey Gary. I’m curious, what is Affluenza?

Maureen: Very interesting question.

Gary: Affluenza. So it’s a legal theory that a lawyer has advanced in defense of a defendant in a criminal case. Why does it matter? I guess the point of it was: he’s so affluent the kid didn’t know what he was doing, he can’t appreciate that his actions were criminal. That’s kind of crazy, but that’s it’s not a legal defense, I don’t think. A legal defense would say as a matter of law affluenza exonerates you from liability for this criminal act that we would otherwise want to punish. Because the whole point of the criminal law system really is to punish intentional conduct, not negligent conduct, not something you do without wanting it to happen. Now there’s recklessness and wantonness that can supersede, kind of, the intent but normally if it’s not intended then we don’t punish it. So a mens rea a’ is the legal term that you learn in law school about why we have criminal law. So, affluenza is, I guess, a way for the lawyer to try and argue he didn’t have mens rea a’, there’s no reason to punish this kid because he didn’t intend it, he didn’t know any better. Yeah I don’t think it’s working. I don’t think it’s really worked in that trial. So anyway, good question. That’s what we’re here to do, answer your questions so keep them coming.

Maureen: Yes, very good. And we have an email viewer question. Okay so, this one I’m going to read.

Question Two: Is it discrimination if you are denied a position by your employer because of your military status?

Gary: Well the quick answer I think would be ‘no.’ Military status is not a protected class. What we look to for discrimination is- and I’ll read the list: race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age. Okay- Those are the protected classes, those are the things the court has said we protect, and don’t allow to be a factor in making decisions. And so military status, you know, is there a rational basis for why they’re, you know, discriminating? I think if it deals with National Guard service, say you’re pulled down to the Mexican border with the National Guard, I think there’s some protections for military in that situation. But it’s not a protected class under the classic, kind of, discrimination case.

Maureen: Oh very good. Very interesting. Great questions again, thank you keep them coming. You can email to us, or maybe we can find you as a man on the street. Thank you so much for joining us today, Gary. We look forward to seeing you on the very next Legal Break.