Ethan Couch's Lawyers Make Last Ditch Effort to Keep Affluenza Teen Out of Jail

Ethan Couch is brought into Judge Wayne Salvant's court for Couch's adult court hearing at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth.
Ethan Couch is brought into Judge Wayne Salvant's court for Couch's adult court hearing at Tim Curry Justice Center in Fort Worth.
EPA/MAX FAULKNER/POOL via Newscom

Lawyers for Ethan Couch, the drunk-driving teen who killed four and injured 11 in a 2012 accident, are trying to get their client out of Tarrant County Jail.

In April, Couch was ordered to serve almost two years in jail by Judge Wayne Salvant for violating the terms of the 10-year probation sentence he was given for the killings. Now, Couch's attorneys say Salvant had no business handling Couch's move from the juvenile to adult justice systems in the first place.

When Couch went on trial for the four homicides during the summer of 2013, his defense team argued for a lenient punishment. Their client, they argued couldn't appropriately anticipate the consequences of his actions because of his family's wealth. His parents refused to set boundaries,  so Couch suffered from what a defense psychologist called "affluenza."

Because of this portmanteau — not to mention the actual crimes — Couch became infamous. It was no wonder then that when he played a few rounds of beer pong in 2015, someone took video of the drinking game and posted it on Twitter. The post went viral, and Couch and his mother Tonya Couch ditched town and headed to Mexico. After less than a month on the run, they were both caught and extradited back to Tarrant County. When Couch appeared before Salvant, the judge threw the book at him, giving him 180 days in jail for each count.   

In a Wednesday filing, Couch's lawyers say that the hearing held in Salvant's court shouldn't count because Salvant is a criminal district judge. Juvenile probation proceedings, they argue, are technically civil matters, so the hearing should've been handled in a civil court. Couch should be released from Tarrant County Jail, they say, until a civil court hearing can be held.

"Because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this matter, this Court has no authority to act whatsoever, and any orders – including the imposition of any and all conditions of probation – previously entered by this Court in this matter are null and void,” the filing says.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has pushed hard over the last four years for Couch to be punished to the full extent of the law, called the filing a "cruel antic."

"The idea that the criminal court doesn’t have jurisdiction is ludicrous. He was a criminal the night he killed four people and injured numerous others while driving drunk," the group said in a statement. "He was a criminal when he failed to show up to a meeting with his probation officer in December of last year. And he was a criminal when he fled the country in violation of his probation. Any attempt by his attorneys to argue differently should be rejected by the courts, and Ethan Couch must remain in jail.” 

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