The “Affluenza Teen,” Ethan Couch, was recently sentenced to 720 days in prison, but not for the reason people may think.
In 2013 Ethan Couch, age 16, got behind the wheel of a pick-up truck with three times the legal blood-alcohol level. As a result of his negligence, four individuals were killed and two were left severely injured. One of the injured victims, one of Couch’s passengers, was left unable to speak or move.
During his initial trial Couch and his lawyers claimed affluenza as his defense. Affluenza is a psychological discomfort or illness that supposedly affects wealthy youth. The symptoms of affluenza include lack of motivation, feelings of guilt, and a sense of isolation. In the case of Ethan Couch, he claimed that due to his wealthy lifestyle he did not know better than to get behind the wheel of the truck that night, despite being warned by multiple people that he was unfit to drive.
The result of the Affluenza Teen’s initial trial was 10 years of probation, which the court found out he violated when a video surfaced of Couch at a party where alcohol was being served. After the video came to light, Couch and his mother fled to Mexico where they escaped authorities for a few weeks before being caught.
Three years after the initial incident, Couch was switched from the Juvenile system to the Adult court system. At the age of 19, his ten-year probation still stands and will continue until February 2024. However, the court can no longer punish Couch for actions performed as a juvenile, therefore, no action can be taken in response to violating probation or fleeing the country. If he violates probation again he could face up to 10 years in prison per death.
When transferring an individual from the juvenile court system to the adult there is a minimum of 120 days in prison that must be served. The maximum sentence that can be served due to switching court systems is 180 days. The judge that ruled Couch’s case sentenced Couch to 720 days in prison, 180 for each person he killed. However, Couch’s attorneys are arguing that the deaths should be sentenced as one case and not four individual cases. As there is room for argument, the judge is leaving a two week period for attorneys to argue the outcome and for the case to be reconsidered.
If the judge does not reconsider and Ethan Couch serves 720 days in prison, once released, he will continue out his 10 year probation.