Opinion: Affluenza Teen Released, But For How Long

Opinion: Affluenza Teen Released, But For How Long

Opinion: Affluenza Teen Released, But For How Long

It doesn’t seem possible, but it has been little more than four years since we first heard the terms “affluenza”. It will forever be associated with Ethan Couch and his family. It should serve as a warning for parents to teach your children about there being consequences to their actions. As for Couch, he became the poster boy for what it means to be spoiled, affluent and thinking you are above the law. Now he once again is free to walk – and drive – the streets of Texas after serving only two years in jail for killing four and injuring nine.

I wish I could say this story began June 15, 2013 when Couch stole alcohol from a local convenience store before plowing a pick up into a group of good Samaritans who had stopped to help at an accident site. At the time, the truck Couch was driving was going 70 miles per hour on what is essentially a country road. Four people were killed and nine were injured that night. By the time his blood alcohol content was checked, approximately three hours after the accident, it was three times the legal limit. Three times.

I wish I could say the story began five months earlier when Couch was given a citation for minor in possession of alcohol. It seems a police officer came upon him in a pickup truck where the officer found a bottle of beer and a bottle of vodka.

Unfortunately for his victims, the story began long before that and much of the blame falls directly one his parents. At least that’s the story bought by the trial court. His attorneys successfully argued that Couch had been spoiled by his parents to the extent that he didn’t understand there were consequences to his actions. He was too affluent, too pampered and too special in their eyes. Four people died, nine were injured and countless others impacted by the actions of this spoiled brat. And his punishment? Ten years probation, with one of the terms being he not drink alcohol during that time.

(Credit: Jalisco State Prosecutors Office)

Of course, being such a “special” young man and not learning his lesson, it didn’t take him long to violate the terms of his probation. He was sentenced December 2013. Two years later, a Youtube video showing him playing beer pong went viral. An arrest warrant was issued on December 11, 2015. This was after Couch failed to report to his probation officer and after authorities realized his mother had sold her home and the two of them were in the wind. Seventeen days later, they were arrested in Mexico where they had been hiding.

It took a little time, but finally they were returned to Fort Worth and Couch found himself facing jail time for his actions. Even then, he fought. He shouldn’t be confined. He shouldn’t be put in jail past his 18th birthday. He shouldn’t be confined with adult prisoners once he turned 18.

And today he walked out of the county jail, not exactly free but certainly without paying an appropriate price for his crimes. While serving the rest of his probation, he will have to wear an ankle monitor. He can’t leave home before 0800 hours and he has to return by 2100 hours. He will have to undergo regular drug testing, wear a drug testing patch and any vehicle he drives must be equipped with a camera and ignition lock connected to a breathalyzer. Pardon me if I don’t think that is nearly enough or that it will be any sort of deterrent if he chooses to go driving off somewhere in a friend’s car.

It doesn’t matter that he’s been seen as a model prisoner.

For the first time in his life, he’s been in a situation where he had no real control over his day. He couldn’t do what he wanted, when he wanted. That has now changed. There is no guard standing watch over him. He’s not being locked into a cell at night. His contact with outside influences is no longer strictly limited. How long until he violates his probation again?

It doesn’t matter that his attorneys say Couch felt “true remorse” from the beginning.That might be true, but I doubt it. Not once during the months leading up to his trial or the time after it and when he fled to Mexico did he apologize for his actions. One would think someone feeling remorse over killing people and maiming friends would say “I’m sorry”. But not the Affluenze Teen.

It doesn’t matter than Couch has been forgiven by some of those impacted by his actions that night. What matters is Couch and his actions. So far, he’s shown no indication that he’s nothing but a chip off the proverbial block and that block has a shaky foundation. His mother is in jail after violating the terms of her bail on charges relating to helping Couch flee to Mexico. His father has been charged with several offenses, including criminal mischief. He has been convicted of impersonating a police officer. Is it any wonder Couch thought he could do whatever he wanted?

Right now, bets are being placed around Texas as to how long it will be before the Affluenza Teen violates probation again. Justice might be blind but, in this case, she had the wool pulled over her eyes and our best hope is no one else dies as a result.

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  • GWB says:

    And this is exactly why I think “impact statements” and “victims forgiving the perpetrator” and the perpetrator’s “background” are miscarriages of justice. If he did the crime, he should do the time. This man should never be out of prison – that result is exactly for people who don’t give a crap about the outcomes of their actions.

  • David R Byler says:

    There are parts of Texas where this creature may not wish to be found.

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