MADD Petitions to Try 'Affluenza' Teen as Adult | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

MADD Petitions to Try 'Affluenza' Teen as Adult

Ethan Couch, 18, was sentenced to 10 years of probation for a 2013 drunken driving crash that left four people dead in a case that garnered national attention.

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    M.A.D.D. has launched an online petition demanding the case of North Texas "affluenza" teen Ethan Couch be transferred from juvenile to adult court. (Published Monday, Jan. 11, 2016)

    Mothers Against Drunk Driving has launched an online petition demanding the case of North Texas "affluenza" teen Ethan Couch be transferred from juvenile to adult court.

    Couch, 18, was sentenced to 10 years of probation for a 2013 drunken driving crash that left four people dead in a case that garnered national attention. His attorneys invoked an "affluenza" defense, blaming Couch's privileged upbringing for his behavior.

    MADD is seeking 30,000 signatures on an online petition urging a judge to transfer Couch's case from juvenile to adult court at a hearing set for Jan. 19. The petition went live Monday morning.

    In a news release, MADD officials condemned a judge for sentencing Couch only to probation, saying the teen "was never held responsible for his actions."

    "Couch is not a child. His actions are not that (sic) of a child. Four people were killed and several injured, and Couch continues to show no remorse and blatant disregard for the law," MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church said in a statement Monday.

    Couch, still on probation, fled the country several weeks ago after video surfaced that appeared to show Couch at a party where people were drinking alcohol. It's unclear if Couch himself was drinking, but doing so would have violated his probation.

    He and his mother were captured in Puerto Vallarta and detained. His mother, Tonya Couch, has been extradited to the U.S. and was arraigned last week. Ethan Couch remains held in Mexico City.

    "The nation has watched with anger and disdain as Couch continues to show blatant disregard for the law," MADD representatives wrote in Monday's news release. "The families impacted will never have their loved ones back. Couch must be treated like the adult he is."

    The petition had already hit one-third of its goal by 5 p.m. on Monday. MADD North Texas Executive Director Jason Derscheid told NBC 5 that he hoped the petition started a national conversation about drunk driving and their consequences.

    Derscheid says while the Couch case has grabbed national attention, it's not all that rare for DWI offenders to only get a slap on the wrist. 

    "The biggest thing is to make sure judges and people know that this isn’t okay," Derscheid said. "And the public’s not okay with allowing someone a slap on the wrist after taking several people’s lives."

    The Tarrant County District Attorney's office had no formal comment regarding the petition. It's unclear if it will have any sway in the juvenile court. The DA's office did say the petition shows how upset the community is by Couch's actions and that of the juvenile justice system.

    Couch will likely still be in Mexico at the time of the scheduled hearing in juvenile court. However, the DA's office says that as far as they know it will still go on with or without him.

    Online:MADD Petition to #FightAffluenza

    NBC 5's Chris Van Horne contributed to this report.


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