A ruling is expected Friday as to whether the Texas teenager who killed four people in a drunk-driving wreck will move from juvenile jail to an adult facility in order to await his hearing.
Ethan Couch, 18, arrived back in the United States Thursday after being deported from Mexico. Police say he fled the US with his mother to avoid facing possible charges of violating his probation.
His lawyers may petition for him to be moved to an adult jail because there he would have the option of applying for bail. In juvenile custody, he would have no such option.
Sheriff Dee Anderson of Tarrant County, where Mr. Couch was originally sentenced, has said that placing him in an adult jail would be only appropriate, given his age and the severity of the offenses.
"He's certainly capable of understanding now what's going on, and I'd feel better if he was there," said Sheriff Anderson, according to AP.
Couch’s hearing, scheduled for Feb. 19, will determine whether proceedings should move from juvenile court to the adult system. Because Couch was 16 at the time of the offences in Dec. 2013, his case has so far been dealt with in the former.
The original sentence was for ten years’ probation, which prohibited him from leaving Tarrant County or from drinking alcohol.
A video surfaced in December that appeared to show Couch drinking alcohol at a party, and police say that this is what caused him to dye his hair and beard in an attempt to disguise himself, and then flee to Mexico with his mother, Tonya Couch.
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 original sentence itself caused widespread outrage, not just because of its lenient nature, but because of the controversial manner in which the defense argued their case.
An expert witness asserted that Couch had been “coddled into a sense of irresponsibility by his wealthy parents” and described this affliction as “affluenza,” even though this is unrecognized as a medical condition by the American Psychiatric Association.
After his arrest in Mexico in December, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) launched a campaign to move the case to adult court, as The Christian Science Monitor reported.
“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 their petition.
"Couch is no child," the petition continues. "His actions are not that of a child."
Should the case be moved to adult court, the judge could sentence Couch to 120 days in jail for violation of his probation, then to finish the remainder of his ten-year probation.
If he were to violate his probation a second time, then he could be given up to ten years behind bars for each of the four people he killed.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.