Ethan Couch is set to be released from prison on Monday after serving two years as part of his punishment from a 2013 drunk driving accident that killed four people and injured others. Couch was famously dubbed the “affluenza teen” after his defense attorney claimed that because of his privileged upbringing, he had a condition that caused him to lack understanding of the repercussions of his actions. He will now serve ten years of probation following his release, but if he isn’t careful it could be a lot worse.
Couch initially received a punishment of probation by a juvenile court, with the chance of jail time once he got older and the case moved to adult court. When Couch turned 19, the new judge ordered him to spend 720 days in jail as a condition of his continued probation. Couch had also been in jail after violating the initial terms of the probation by failing to check in with his probation officer and fleeing to Mexico.
Couch, now 20, must adhere to some pretty strict requirements. He will be subjected to electronic monitoring to make sure he’s home between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. He also has to wear an alcohol monitoring system and undergo on-demand substance abuse testing. If he is prescribed medication, he has to tell his probation officer, to make sure he isn’t taking anything that isn’t prescribed by a doctor. On top of that, he won’t be able to drive a vehicle that doesn’t have a camera and ignition interlock system.
As Law&Crime founder Dan Abrams said Monday morning on ABC’s Good Morning America, these are pretty strict terms, even if probation itself is a relatively light punishment for killing four people. Not only are the terms tough, if Couch violates any of them, he could end up back in jail for up to 40 years, ten years for each victim who died in the crash.
“Once that lenient sentence was issued, they’ve now done everything they can to enhance that sentence,” Abrams said.
Couch’s mother also faces a trial in May after being charged with hindering apprehension of a known felon and money laundering as part of her alleged role in helping Couch flee to Mexico. Tonya Couch then failed a court-ordered drug test.
Abrams noted the irony that Tonya Couch could now potentially spend more time behind bars than her son.
Note: This article has been corrected to clarify the reason for Couch’s incarceration. He was in jail as part of an added condition for his continued probation, and not as punishment for his probation violation.
[Image via ABC screengrab]