'Affluenza' DWI Teen Spared Jail Again

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on February 06, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The so-called "affluenza" DWI case is back in the news, as the 16-year-old driver who pleaded guilty to causing a fatal crash was spared jail time yet again by a Texas judge.

Ethan Couch was initially sentenced to 10 years of probation for a drunken driving crash that killed four people in 2013; a psychologist testified the privileged teen was "too rich to care about the consequences." However, prosecutors tacked on two charges of intoxication assault and requested jail time, The Dallas Morning News reports.

How did the boy evade jail time once again?

Intoxication Assault

Couch was initially charged with intoxication manslaughter for killing four people in a drunken driving accident. In the intoxication manslaughter case, Couch was sentenced to 10 years of probation, but no jail time. That outraged victims' relatives because in Texas, intoxication manslaughter can carry up to a 20-year prison sentence.

In an alleged attempt to make the "affluenza" teen serve time behind bars, prosecutors added charges of intoxication assault for causing severe injuries for two surviving victims. Intoxication assault is a third degree felony in Texas, and can occur when an intoxicated person operates a vehicle and accidently causes serious bodily injury to someone else.

Defendants found guilty of intoxication assault can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. However, even with the additional intoxication assault charges, the judge only sentenced Couch to his original 10 years' probation and ordered the teen to be placed in a residential treatment facility for an undisclosed amount of time at his parents' expense, according to the Morning News.

Could He Ever Face Jail Time?

Although Couch wasn't sentenced to jail, the "affluenza" teen could still end up there if he violates the terms of his probation. Couch is not allowed to drive, use drugs, or drink alcohol for the next 10 years, the Tarrant County district attorney's office told the Morning News.

If a criminal violates his probation, a judge can impose jail time, fines, or community service. The same could happen if Couch fails to appear for a scheduled court date in the future, or fails to report to his probation officer.

The "affluenza" teen's sentence isn't the end of the road when it comes to legal consequences for his DWI crash, however. Six civil lawsuits have been filed against the boy and his parents in state court, according to news reports.

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