The 16-year-old boy who was the center of the infamous “affluenza” drunk driving incident, has had a warrant issued for his arrest in Texas. The police are also looking for the mother, who is believed to be an accomplice to his recent disappearance.
The arrest warrant was issued shortly after a cell phone video came to light that showed Ethan Couch, now 19-years-old, at a house party participating in a drinking game with other underage individuals. The state of Texas was investigating the video in order to determine if there was a violation of Couch's court ordered 10-year probation from his 2013 drunk driving trial.
Couch was originally charged with drunk driving and four counts of vehicular homicide, when he struck a vehicle and careened into a group of people on the side of a Texas road. Two other individuals riding in the bed of Couch's truck were thrown from the vehicle and seriously injured in the incident. Nine other individuals were also injured at the scene. Police investigators determined that Couch was driving 70 MPH in a 40 MPH zone, and that he had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of three times the legal limit.
When investigators inspected Couch's house after the accident, they learned that the 16-year-old was living by himself in a 4,000 square foot house with a wet bar and a swimming pool. The parents were living in their newly purchased 7,000 square foot house several miles away.
Couch pled guilty to all four counts of “intoxication causing manslaughter” charges, and by pleading guilty, he faced the possibility of a 20-year prison sentence. Couch's attorneys introduced a novel defense in an attempt to keep their client from a lengthy prison sentence.
The defense counsel brought a psychologist to the stand who testified that Couch was suffering from a condition known as “affluenza”. His affluenza condition, according to the defense team, prevented him from understanding right from wrong, exercising proper judgement and led him to believe that his wealth gave him additional privilege. The defense team also blamed the parents for inadequate supervision of their child.
The affluenza defense argument held up during the sentencing process, and Couch was sentenced by the Texas juvenile court to 10 years of probation and several years in a residential treatment facility away from the “influence” of his parents.
The judge's probation sentence included no jail time for Couch and the headlines about the affluenza defense argument caused worldwide outrage at the time.
In the meantime, the FBI and U.S. Marshals Office are now joining in the nationwide hunt for the “affluenza” teen. There is a $5,000 reward issued for information on his whereabouts. If he is eventually captured, it is still not certain how the Texas courts will respond to the possible violation of his probation.
The defense attorney, Scott Brown, stated after Couch's initial sentencing in 2013 that the judge “fashioned a sentence that is going to keep Ethan under the thumb of the justice system for the next 10 years, and if Ethan doesn't do what he's supposed to do, if he has one misstep at all, then this judge, or an adult judge when he's transferred, can then incarcerate him."
If you are arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving, your arrest does not have to end in a conviction. With more than 30 years of experience defending people facing a DUI in the East Bay, Lynn Gorelick understands the local laws and penalties involved. Contact a local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands the impact of a DUI conviction, and is familiar with the local laws, prosecutors and the courts.