Ethan Couch Gets Out of Jail Just Before His 21st Birthday

Update: 12:04 p.m. — Couch is out of jail. Upon his release, his lawyers released the following statement:

"From the beginning, Ethan has admitted his conduct, accepted responsibility for his actions, and felt true remorse for the terrible consequences of those actions," the statement said. "Now, nearly five years after this horrific event, Ethan does not wish to draw attention to himself and requests privacy so he may focus on successfully completing his community supervision and going forward as a law-abiding citizen."
Original post — Sometime after 8:30 a.m. Monday, Ethan Couch is getting out of Tarrant County jail. The 20-year-old drunken-driving killer responsible for the portmanteau "affluenza" becoming part of the American lexicon will have served 720 days, completing a condition set by District Judge Wayne Salvant for Couch's transfer to the adult probation system.

Couch's case attracted international attention in 2013 after a psychologist testifying on his behalf  said the teen suffered from something called affluenza. The condition, according to G. Dick Miller, left the teenager unable to anticipate the consequences of his actions because his wealthy parents failed to set boundaries during his childhood and adolescence.

Although Couch killed four people and left a fifth victim paralyzed, his trial judge, Jean Boyd, didn't sentence him to any jail time, instead giving him 10 years of probation.

After a video surfaced on Twitter two years later of Couch playing beer pong, he and his mother, Tonya Couch, fled the United States. Ethan Couch feared that his probation would be revoked — probationers, juvenile or otherwise, aren't allowed to drink alcohol — so he and his mother had a goodbye party and headed for Puerto Vallarta.

After spending several weeks in the Mexican resort town, the two were caught when authorities traced an order for Domino's Pizza made from one of the Couches' smartphones. Tonya Couch returned to the United States on New Year's Eve 2015. Ethan Couch made it back in late January 2016 after giving up a battle against extradition.

As he fled to Mexico, Couch's probation was still being supervised by the juvenile court system, which meant his probation could only be revoked until April 11, 2016, his 19th birthday. Although he was not subject to any additional time for his flight, Couch faced a stay in county jail as a condition of being transferred to the adult probation system.

In April 2016, Salvant gave Couch the toughest sentence the judge believed he could hand out — 180 days for each of the four people Couch killed, to be served consecutively.

Now that Couch has served his time, he'll have the chance to complete his probation. According to conditions released by the state, he'll have to stay home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day, wear an alcohol monitor, and submit to on-demand drug or alcohol testing whenever required by the state. If Couch gets a new driver's license, any car he drives will have to be equipped with a camera and ignition interlock device that would require him to test his breathe for alcohol while being recorded in order to start the car.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young