Published On: Thu, Jan 7th, 2016

Affluenza Teen Ethan Couch Did Not Have to Run

We all know by now the case of Ethan Couch, who was arrested in Mexico for violating the terms of his probation. He first made national news in 2013 when his criminal defense team created the successful “Affluenza” defense that resulted in a sentence of probation for killing four teens in a drunk driving crash.

Ethan Couch affluenza case

Ethan Couch

In 2015 a video surfaced of the teen playing beer pong, which violates his probation terms that require abstaining from alcohol. Instead of hiring an attorney, the teen and his mother apparently decided to flee to Mexico. Now that he has been caught, many are curious if he will finally face justice and harsher punishment commensurate with his offenses. Many people immediately assume that the video is evidence, guaranteeing that Ethan will be sentenced to prison.

The truth is, Ethan was tried in juvenile court. The juvenile criminal justice system does not issue adult punishment  for crimes committed by children. Ethan Couch and his mother probably never would have fled the country had they consulted a criminal defense attorney who knows the juvenile legal system.

Juvenile court is something the media obviously does not understand and the realities are that the case was resolved in juvenile court, which greatly limits the punishment that can be handed down to Ethan Couch. This is why the Tarrant County authorities had been trying to have his case transferred form juvenile court to the adult system; primarily because the penalties and terms would be much more severe.

Ethan Couch remains on juvenile probation would never have been in serious trouble as a result of the beer pong incident. In fact, it is likely that the probation office would have continued to sanction him and he would of remained on probation for the length of his term. Now that he has violated the terms of his probation so publicly and with such gusto, he may face harsher penalties.

Guest Author: Jeff Hampton

Jeff Hampton is a criminal defense attorney and founder of The Hampton Law Firm in Fort Worth, Texas

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