Mothers Against Drunk Driving says it is fighting for justice on behalf of the four victims of an underage drunk driver, who hit and killed them in December 2013, and injured several others.
The advocacy organization is collecting 30,000 signatures on a petition launched Monday that demands that the infamous “affluenza” teen, Ethan Couch, be moved from juvenile to adult court in time for a Jan. 19 hearing in Tarrant County, Texas.
“MADD was outraged, along with millions of others when the judge sentenced Couch to a stint in rehab and 10 years in probation after the defense successfully argued that he was too rich to understand what he had done was wrong, better known as ‘Affluenza,’” writes MADD in the petition.
"Couch is no child," the petition continues. "His actions are not that of a child."
While MADD doesn't offer a legal explanation for its petition, one of the basic differences between a juvenile court and the adult criminal court is that the intent of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation. On the other hand, the criminal court is based on punishment and the deterrence of future crimes.
Juvenile court sentences tend to be shorter since the American criminal justice system has placed numerous restrictions on sentences for juveniles. In 2005, the Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for individuals who committed crimes before age 18. Life sentences without parole are also forbidden for individuals under age 18 who are convicted of any crime other than murder, notes The Christian Science Monitor.
Many critics of trying juveniles as adults also say that juveniles are not fully capable of comprehending the consequences of their actions and may not have complete control over their behavior.
Tarrant County prosecutors are also requesting that Couch’s case be transferred from juvenile court to adult court.
Mr. Couch's case drew national attention and anger when he was sentenced to probation for causing the fatal driving accident in 2013, after a defense witness in that case argued that he was afflicted with a condition the expert called "affluenza," because the teen had been coddled by his wealthy parents. “Affluenza” is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association. Couch was 16 at the time of the incident.
In early December, 18-year-old Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, fled to Mexico after a video surfaced that appeared to show him at a party drinking alcohol, which is a violation of his probation and could lead to jail time.
Weeks before they were arrested in Mexico on December 28, he with an attempted disguise of dyed hair and beard, Ms. Couch had pulled $30,000 from a bank account and told his father, from whom she is divorced, that he would never see them again, according to her arrest warrant.
The pair was arrested in the Pacific coast resort town of Puerto Vallarta, where a pizza delivery order helped authorities track them down.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ms. Couch now is in Tarrant County jail, charged with hindering apprehension, with a bail of $1 million. A bond reduction hearing is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
Her son, Ethan, is in Mexico, where attorneys are fighting his transfer back to the United States.