There’s a manhunt underway for the “Affluenza” Teen who was so rich he didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, and he may already have left the country, but how hard would it be for a normal person to flee the U.S.?
Ethan Couch, 18, was convicted of killing four people in a drunken car crash and injuring two more, but was simply instructed not to drink alcohol or do drugs for 10 years.
That proved to be too much for the Texas teen as he was caught on video playing beer pong and now he and his mom are missing.
The Couchs’ may already have fled the country with their millions, but if they weren’t rich how would they get away, where could they go and how would they survive if forced to flee?
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) December 19, 2015
Citizens returning from other countries to the U.S. are required to have a passport so most airlines, cruise ships, etc. will require their passengers to carry one, which means that option is out. Wanted fugitives are listed on a government database, so using a passport will trigger a call to law enforcement.
Many remote areas on the Canadian border are unguarded, however, so a determined fugitive could just walk across, especially if they possess some basic survival skills.
Once in Canada a low-key lifestyle will ensure they remain undisturbed and with a little luck they could find an “under the table” job working construction or tending bar.
Wealthy fugitives, like Couch and his mom, or those with the necessary skills could simply hire a boat or fly a plane for travel out of the United States. Ships and planes leaving the U.S. are much more likely to avoid being searched than those entering the country.
They could flee to the Bahamas or the numerous other islands off the U.S. coast and simply wade ashore and walk into town. Once there, the lifestyle would be more difficult and they would need to learn Spanish, but the locals are unlikely to turn them in.
Fleeing to Mexico is also a possibility, as anyone can legally travel up to 25 miles into the interior without special papers. The ability to speak Spanish would be important at this point, however as outsiders, especially Americans, would be easily recognizable.
After skipping the country, the prospective fugitive could country hop until they find a non-extradition treaty country where they can’t be exported to the U.S. or just decide to settle down.
If the newly minted fugitive has chosen a third world country to flee too, they can often expect to be free from extradition; they can also expect to go through four stages of culture shock, according to Flee America.
First comes the honeymoon stage when the new arrival is excited to be in a new country and new surroundings, but this will quickly fade as they face the need to blend in with their new surroundings. Living in a hotel isn’t exactly normal daily life for most people.
During the irritation to anger stage the new arrival can expect to be upset by the little things: the language barrier, frequent power outages and different foods. It could be impossible to find their favorite foods or even order a decent dinner.
The differences in societies amount to culture shock and can result in the newcomer rejecting their new country during the regression stage. At this point our now angry and frustrated fugitive may decide it’s better to return home and face the consequences.
If they make it through this stage the fugitive can expect to move on to the assimilation stage where they begin to accept the positive aspects of their new country. By now they’ve learned the language and are starting to learn their way around and have maybe even made a few friends.
— Hunted HQ (@Hunted_HQ) December 18, 2015
The Down Side
For those fugitives who decide to flee the country, there are some definite negative consequences to consider.
The statute of limitations doesn’t apply to fugitives on the run, according to Find Law. That means, even though the fugitive avoids jail time, if they are caught, even years later, they can still be prosecuted.
The famous, or infamous, criminal can expect to be tracked by bounty hunters trained to capture them and bring them back to justice. They can also expect their picture to be posted in conspicuous areas and the Internet so a complete makeover will be needed.
A warrant will be issued for their arrest and if they’re caught the fugitive could face extradition back to the U.S. making the whole experience a waste of time.
Remember, the U.S. harbors some 180,000 fugitives inside its borders who escaped jail simply by crossing state lines, according to the USA Today.
So those who lack the extra cash may want to consider moving to a remote area across the state line and simply living a very low-key lifestyle.
Whether the Affluenza teen Ethan Couch and his mom will ever be found remains to be seen.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]