Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the international advocate pushing for an end to drunk driving, has started an online petition lobbying the Texas judicial system and called on supporters to spread awareness using the #FightAffluenza hashtag.
Moving the case of the “affluenza” teen from juvenile to adult court is the stated goal of the MADD petition. Ethan Couch was recently apprehended in Mexico after fleeing from the United States when video depicting the teen playing beer pong while under strict conditions not to consume alcohol as part of an agreement to avoid jail for his role in a June 2013 drunk driving accident that claimed the lives of four people and injured more, as reported by the Inqusitr.
Prosecutors from Tarrant Country are said to be asking that Couch’s case be moved to adult court as well, reports Yahoo News.
The #FightAffluenza petition has already gained close to 26,000 signatures. Couch is expected to appear in court on January 19 to face his flight from the law. MADD is trying to gain 30,000 signatures in hopes that this hearing may be moved to adult court.
“The nation has watched with anger and disdain as Couch continues to show blatant disregard for the law. The families impacted will never have their loved ones back. Couch must be treated like the adult he is. Join us to fight affluenza. No more excuses. No more chances. No more victims.”
Ethan Couch’s mother, Tonya, was reported to have helped her son flee to Mexico, where the two stayed in Puerto Vallarta at the Los Tulles resort. Tonya Couch was said to have been required to pay for her son’s tab at a strip club when the affluenza teen was brought home by the club’s managers late one evening. Reportedly, an order for pizza tipped authorities off as to the pair’s whereabouts.
One of the primary differences between the adult court system and the juvenile one is that adult courts are, in theory, meant to punish criminals and deter future crimes from occurring, while juvenile courts are intended to rehabilitate young offenders. The death penalty was prohibited from being handed down in cases of crimes committed by people younger than 18 in a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Similarly, with the exception of young offenders convicted of murder, life without parole as a punishment is reported to be only available to judges and juries in the adult court systems.
In early December, it was reported that Ethan Couch and his mother had gone missing in the wake of a video of the teen drinking beer, breaking his probation conditions, surfacing on the internet. Couch was well-known for receiving what was perceived by many as a light sentence with no jail time and 10 years probation, including conditions such as not drinking alcohol, after a criminal psychologist diagnosed him with affluenza, a made-up word that describes a condition that is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. The term has been described as a euphemism for “spoiled brats.”
Tonya Couch, who is divorced from Ethan’s father, was said to have withdrawn $30,000 from a bank account and told him that he would never see her or his son again. When changing hotel rooms in Mexico, the mother and son were reported to have forgotten a gun in one and to have later been required to retrieve it from the hotel’s management.
MADD was founded in 1980 and helped to serve 63,000 victims of drunk and drugged driving in 2015. The existence of the nonprofit organization is said to coincide with a reduction in drunk driving “by half.” Despite this, MADD reports that “over 10,000 people [are] killed and 350,000 injured each year due to this violent crime.”
[Photo by U.S. Marshals via Getty Images]