Ethan Couch initially avoided jail time in a deadly drunk driving wreck because his attorneys argued he’d never been held responsible for his actions while growing up. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is looking to give the so-called “affluenza” teen that dose of responsibility the group claims he’s missing.
MADD launched a petition on Monday demanding that Couch’s case be moved from juvenile to adult court. Couch, who is fighting extradition back to the U.S. from Mexico, will have a hearing Jan. 19 to decide if his case should be moved to adult court.
“Couch has been found, and everything possible must be done to hold him accountable and to ensure that Couch has no more victims,” MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church said in the statement. “Couch is not a child. His actions are not that of a child. Four people were killed and several injured, and Couch continues to show no remorse and blatant disregard for the law.”
MADD claims it's hoping to obtain about 30,000 signatures on the petition by Jan. 19.
Transferring Couch, 18, to adult court could allow a judge to sentence him to 120 days in prison. Perhaps more meaningful, however, it would also allow for Couch's probation to extend beyond his 19th birthday. If he violated adult probation, Couch could be in for a lengthy prison sentence.
"The national attention in the Couch case must be used to start a larger conversation about the country's complacency on drunk driving,” Sheehey-Church said. “Our hearts are broken for the hundreds of thousands of victims who have been killed or injured. MADD cares, and if you do too, join us to fight ‘affluenza,’ sign the petition and join MADD in our mission to end drunk driving."
Couch's case drew national attention when he was sentenced to 10 years' probation for the 2013 crash. Couch was 16 at the time of the wreck.
A defense witness argued Couch was coddled by his wealthy parents, a condition the expert called "affluenza." The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew ridicule.
Law enforcement officials said his mom Tonya Couch, 48, and Ethan fled to Mexico in December after a video surfaced that appeared to show the teen at a party drinking alcohol. If he was drinking, it would violate his probation and could lead to jail time.
The pair was located in Mexico in late December. Ethan has found extradition back to Texas, but Tonya has already been returned.