FORT WORTH, Texas - A juvenile court judge has agreed to move Ethan Couch’s fatal drunken-driving case to the adult court.
Couch was 16-years-old when he drove drunk and caused a crash that killed four people. He pleaded guilty as a juvenile and was controversially sentenced to probation after the now-famous affluenza testimony from an expert.
Now 18, prosecutors say he violated that probation when he failed to check in with his probation officer in December. He then took off to Mexico with this mother allegedly because of a video clip that shows him drinking at a party.
“By transferring to the adult courts now he’s under supervision for a longer period of time from the adult court to make sure he doesn’t screw up, doesn’t continue drinking and driving even well into his adulthood,” said Alex Kim, a legal analyst.
Couch will remain in custody at the Tarrant County jail until a new judge will set the terms of his probation. That will happen sometime before his 19th birthday in April.
According to Couch's attorney, the judge could order him to spend up to 180 in jail as part of an adult sentenced for the 2013 crash. That's more than the 120 the district attorney has said all along.
Then he will finish the remainder of his 10-year-probation without additional time behind bars. If he violates his adult probation during that time, he could get up to 10 years in prison for each of the four people killed in the wreck.
"It feels great to be up here on behalf of the victim's of this crime. I hope that the attention placed on this event will cause one family to have one discussion that will cause one person to not get behind the wheel and drink and drive," said Prosecutor Riley Shaw.
Attorney Scott Brown did not fight the transfer of his client's case.
"There were four people killed and there were two others seriously injured, so we anticipated a lengthy probation would be appropriate and we were never gonna have any objections to this and we still don't," he said.
Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson described Couch's behavior while waiting for Friday's hearing.
“He’s very stoic. He doesn’t express any emotions any one way or the other. But there have been no, in my presence, feelings of remorse or questions of guilt or feeling sorry for the people whose lives he’s ended,” Anderson said.
Couch's mother remains under house arrest at her older son's home. She could face two to 10 years in prison if convicted of hindering the apprehension of a felon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.