'Affluenza' Teen Ethan Couch Returning To U.S. To Face Probation Violation Charges

By McCarton Ackerman 12/30/15

Sentencing limitations are working in Couch's favor. 

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“Affluenza” teen Ethan Couch is on his way back to Texas after being detained in Mexico, but his punishment may not be as severe as most were hoping for.

The infamous 18-year-old and his mother, Tonya, were captured on Dec. 28 in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta. Couch reportedly threw a “going away party” before fleeing the country with Tonya in a pick-up truck. Authorities had been searching for the teenager for 12 days after his probation officer found the home he had been renting with his mother was completely empty. A warrant was set out for Couch’s arrest after he violated his probation by missing a meeting with his probation officer, in addition to both he and his mother being unreachable by phone for several days.

It’s now being determined whether Ethan’s case will be handed in juvenile court or transferred over to the adult court system. But if it’s transferred, he would start with an empty record in the adult probation system since his alleged violations took place in the juvenile system. That means the harshest sentence Ethan could receive is 120 days in jail. If it’s handled in the juvenile system, the sentence would likely be even lighter and amount to home confinement.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson expressed frustration over the sentencing limitations and said that “he doesn’t believe the rules apply to him. He doesn’t believe the law applies to him.” However, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said that if Ethan is placed in the adult probation system, any further violations mean he could land in jail for up to 40 years.

Tonya is also currently facing a charge of hindering the apprehension of a minor for her role in the escape. If convicted, she faces anywhere from two to 10 years in jail. She received immense backlash for her lack of parenting after videotapes obtained by ABC News and released last October show her revealing that she couldn’t remember the last time she disciplined her son.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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