Ethan Couch, whose lawyers invoked an “affluenza” defense after he killed four people in a drunken-driving accident, will remain for now in a Texas juvenile detention facility where he has been held since he was deported from Mexico on Thursday.
Texas Judge Timothy Menikos sided with Couch’s lawyers Friday, ruling that the 18-year-old, who fled to Mexico last month with his mother, “should remain in a juvenile detention facility while he awaits a Feb. 19 hearing to determine if his controversial case will be transferred to the adult system,” NBC reports.
Couch and his mother, Tonya, left the U.S. last month after a video surfaced purportedly showing Couch at a party where alcohol was being served. Drinking alcohol would violate the terms of his probation. His 10 years’ probation also mandated that he not leave Tarrant County, Texas.
Couch was 16 when he pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault in 2013. During the sentencing phase, his lawyers argued that Couch shouldn’t be held responsible because his privileged upbringing had rendered him incapable of understanding the consequences of his actions.
Friday’s decision to keep Couch in juvenile detention was disappointing for prosecutors, the families of Couch’s victims and for the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, all of whom wanted Couch to be held in an adult jail, NBC adds.
The Associated Press reports that even if Couch’s case is moved to adult court in Texas, the punishment for violating his probation is up to 120 days in jail. Then, he would finish serving the rest of his 10-year probation sentence, according to Tarrant County District Attorney spokeswoman Samantha Jordan.
The AP adds:
“If he were to violate his probation again, he could get up to 10 years in prison for each of the four people killed in the drunken-driving wreck.
“If his case remains in juvenile court, he could be held in a juvenile detention center for violating his probation until he turns 19 in April, at which point he would become eligible for parole.”