Ethan Couch, who’s been dubbed by the mainstream media as the “affluenza” teen, might be getting of with yet another legal slap on the wrist. Couch rose to notoriety in 2013, at the age of 16, when he was sentenced to a meager 10 years of probation for killing four people in a drunk driving accident. His defense for his horrific, life-ending behavior? Affluenza. The term “affluenza” was coined in the early 2000’s, and its definition (per Merriam-Webster) is “the unhealthy and unwelcome psychological and social effects of affluence regarded especially as a widespread societal problem: such asa : feelings of guilt, lack of motivation, and social isolation experienced by wealthy people.”
In a nutshell, affluenza teen Ethan Couch was let off of the proverbial hook because he was too rich, too privileged, to have been taught about the consequences of his actions. Even when those actions left four people dead.
On December 15, 2015, just two years into the probation of Ethan Couch, The Gawker reports that the so-called “affluenza teen” garnered the national spotlight yet again. This time, because his probation officers had been unable to locate or contact him, and therefore issued a warrant for his arrest. His mother, who’d presumed to be aiding Ethan, was ultimately sought as a missing person. The reason for the probation officer’s inquiry into the affluenza teen’s whereabouts? An indiscreet tweet that implicated Ethan Couch as being a probation violator.
— h (@BlondeSpectre) December 2, 2015
Fast forward to Monday, December 28. This is when authorities found the missing teen and his mother in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. CNN reports that Ethan Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, were were detained in the resort city with markedly different appearances. The pair had altered their hair color, presumably in an attempt to conceal their identities.
Tonya Couch, mother to the affluenza teen, is now facing considerable legal trouble herself. She rose to her son’s defense during the original trial that ultimately exempted him from jail time due to his “affluenza.” For her part in his recent international escape-from-justice attempt, she’s now been charged with hindering the apprehension of a juvenile. If she’s ultimately convicted, she could face between two and ten years in jail.
But what about Ethan Couch, the affluenza teen himself? His critics had hoped that upon his apprehension, he might finally face a “just” sentence for his earlier crimes. After all, when he was initially able to avoid jail time for the drunk driving deaths of four innocent strangers, he was a juvenile. Now, at the age of 19, he’s an adult.
Unfortunately for those who think that “the book” should be thrown at affluenza teen Ethan Couch, it probably won’t happen. CNN reports that, in fact, the most severe punishment Ethan Couch is currently facing for his recent international escape attempt is a mere 120 days in jail. The District Attorney in the case, Sharen Wilson, explained to the public the current limitations on Ethan Couch’s sentencing at a Tuesday news conference.
“Ethan Couch was sentenced as a juvenile and violated his probation as ordered by juvenile court system. Under Texas law, Couch, now 18, would be punished for his violation in the juvenile system. The maximum sentence that a juvenile judge can dish out for a violation of his juvenile probation is imprisonment in a juvenile facility until Couch turns 19, which is April 11, 2016.”
Wilson went on to say that while she’d like to transfer Ethan Couch’s case to the adult justice system, the fact remains that when he violated his probation, he was under the jurisdiction of the juvenile system. Even if/when Ethan is remanded to the adult system in Texas, he will start out with a “clean slate.” This means an “adult judge” can’t consider his juvenile record. The ultimate gist is that the affluenza teen can only be punished to the extent the juvenile system allows.
While some people have found the idea of Ethan Couch getting what amounts to nothing more than a second slap on the wrist incredibly distasteful, it’s possible that this won’t be the end of his legal woes. The District Attorney does appear to have every intention of remanding his case to the adult judicial system in the State of Texas. If the affuenza teen, Ethan Couch, violates the terms of his probation as an adult who’s part of the adult system, he could be facing up to 40 years in prison.
[Image Courtesy Of Jalisco State Prosecutor’s Office/AP Images]