Many in Texas and across the United States were horrified to learn the outcome of a drunk driving case in which four people were killed. Ethan Couch, 16 years old, pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault in Tarrant County court. In return Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Couch to 10 years probation. Prosecutors criticized the judge for so easily accepting the “affluenza” defense, and for giving a lighter sentence than many would receive for such a crime. However, Couch may end up yet serving time if the district attorney has his way.
The tragic case began back in June 2013, when Couch and several of his friends robbed a Wal-Mart store before they got into Couch’s Ford pickup truck and drove at 89 miles per hour down the Burleson-Retta road in southern Tarrant County. Couch, the driver, had a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal drinking limit when he plowed into four people stopped by the side of the road. They included a mother and daughter who had gone to help a stranded friend, the friend, and a youth pastor who had stopped to help. Couch’s collision also left one of his friends critically injured.
In court, Couch’s attorneys argued that Couch suffered from “affluenza”: he had grown up rich and had received everything he wanted, making him incapable of knowing right from wrong. Couch elected to have Judge Boyd sentence him rather than face a jury. He stood to receive up to 20 years in prison, but instead, Judge Boyd ordered that he be released to his parents and be placed at Newport Academy treatment facility, which cost $450,000 per year, which his parents would be required to pay. Couch would remain for at least three months. He has already been twice cited for driving at 89 miles per hour while under the influence, and pleaded no contest. Two of his requirements were to take an alcohol awareness class and do 12 hours of community service.
If District Attorney Joe Shannon has his way, Couch might still face jail time. He is currently seeking jail time for two intoxication assault charges. Meanwhile, even if Couch does not get jail time, he is likely to be hit financially. Five lawsuits have been filed against Couch by the families of the victims, with the amount in damages sought ranging from $1 million for two people killed to $20 million for a victim who has been paralyzed for life and will require extensive care. It may take a high degree of financial shock for a defendant with “affluenza” to learn how to change his ways.
If you or a loved one has suffered due to an injury in a car accident caused by another driver, you may be entitled to compensation, including medical expenses, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. The experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to help. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.