The Case of the “Affluenza” Teen
In 2013, a Texas teenager named Ethan Couch made headlines after he was involved in a fatal crash after consuming alcohol. Many people were outraged after the teenager was punished with a sentence of probation, rather than jail time. Texas is known for its harsh stance on crimes that involve driving while intoxicated. For this reason, many people felt that Couch’s punishment should have been more severe, especially since the car accident caused the death of several people.
Recently, a video surfaced that may show Ethan Couch violating the strict terms of his probation. If the events in the video actually depict the teenager, he may face severe punishments for violating his probation.
The “Affluenza” Case
In June of 2013, a 16-year-old teenager from Burleson named Ethan Couch was arrested after a vehicle crash that killed four people. The teen was charged after he became intoxicated and drove his Ford pickup down the highway. He collided with a vehicle that was stopped on the side of the highway after car trouble. The collision caused the deaths of four people, some who were occupants of the broken down vehicle and some who had stopped to offer assistance. Couch’s friends who were riding with him were also injured in the crash.
The incident led to Ethan Couch being charged with four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault. He could have been punished with years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. However, his controversial legal defense led to a very different outcome.
His lawyer claimed that Ethan Couch suffered from “affluenza“. Although this is not an actual medical term, it is a phrase that his lawyer used to describe the effects of Couch’s upbringing. Couch came from a very wealthy family and his lawyer argued that this upbringing made Couch unable to understand the consequences of his actions. The judge agreed with this defense and Couch was sentenced to 10 years of probation and mandatory alcohol rehabilitation.
Couch could have faced a much more serious sentence. In Texas, a single conviction for intoxication manslaughter can be punished with:
- A conviction for a second degree felony
- Up to 20 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Intoxication assault is a third degree felony, punishable by:
- Up to 10 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
The Current Case
As part of Couch’s probation, he was banned from consuming alcohol or driving a vehicle for the duration of his 10-year term. In a video uploaded in early December 2015, a person who is claimed to be Ethan Couch is shown playing a game of beer pong and consuming alcohol. The person who uploaded the video claimed that Ethan Couch appears in the video and the video was posted to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.
If it is true that Couch is pictured in the video, he could face serious charges for violating the terms of his probation. In Texas, a person who is found guilty of a probation violation can face:
- A revocation of probation
- Reinstatement of the original punishment terms, including jail time
- Additional charges for any new offenses
Because Couch is under the age of 21, it is possible that he could face additional charges for drinking underage. If he is actually guilty of violating his probation, he could be forced to go to court and face a sentence based on his original offense. This could mean that he may be sentenced to years in prison and steep fines.
Although Couch can hire a lawyer to defend him in court on any new charges, a similar “affluenza” defense may not be as successful as it was in the original case.
Are being charged for violating probation? Time is of the essence when it comes to legally protecting yourself. Contact attorney Matt Sharp to get the help you need. Simply fill out a contact form or call his office at (713) 868-6100.