Ethan Couch Is Basically Going to Get Away With Running to Mexico

Ethan Couch — looking like a direct-to-video movie villain — was caught in Puerto Vallata, Mexico, yesterday. The 18-year-old, on the run after apparently violating his probation for killing four in a drunk driving incident, is being held on an immigration detainer by Mexican authorities. 

He and his mother, Tonya Couch, skipped Tarrant County after video surfaced on Twitter than appeared to show the teen playing beer pong. Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said at a press conference that the Couches, following a going away party, headed to Puerto Vallarta in hopes of blending in with tourists for the holidays. They crossed the border in the black Harley Davidson edition Ford F-150. Anderson added that the family did not use credit cards during their time on the lam.

Tonya Couch will be charged with helping Ethan in his escape, Anderson said, a felony that could come with as many as 10 years in prison. But Ethan Couch, at least initially, won't face that much time.

Because Couch's probation had not yet been transferred to the state's adult system, he can only have it revoked for the escape in juvenile court. According to the district attorney, Sharen Wilson, that means that the most time he could receive for violating his probation would be about 3-and-a-half months, until Couch's 19th birthday on April 11, 2016. If, as Anderson and Wilson hope, his 10-year probated sentence is transferred to adult court, he gets to start over — the flight violation wouldn't count against him, although he could be sentenced to 120 days in jail as a condition of his probation.

Still, Wilson said, getting Couch sent to adult probation is best. He'll be faced with tougher probation restrictions, and the chance of serving his full sentence in state prison should he slip up at all. "We need to get to where we no longer have to be concerned about the best interest of the child, in this case the child defendant," Wilson said.

Anderson, citing security risks, did not release details as to when and how the Couches will be returned from Mexico, but authorities did say they would be "expelled" from the country soon. Tuesday, the Tarrant County Sheriff and District Attorney said they couldn't wait to get the Couches back to Texas.

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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