The mother of a North Texas teenager known for using an "affluenza" defense while on trial for a deadly 2013 drunken driving wreck was released from jail Tuesday morning after posting a reduced bond.
A judge reduced Tonya Couch's bond from $1 million to $75,000 in a Tarrant County courtroom Monday.
Couch is charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon: Her son, Ethan Couch, who killed four people in a 2013 crash and was facing allegations that he violated his probation.
Tonya Couch was brought back to Texas last week, days after she and her son were arrested in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Ethan Couch remains in a Mexico City detention facility.
Tonya Couch received an electronic ankle monitor, which she will be required to wear, and must remain at home except for appointments with her doctor and lawyer. She will be electronically monitored 24 hours per day and will need to be available for a visit from a probation officer at any time. She will also have to take routine drug and urine tests.
Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said he hopes that's enough.
"That's always a concern you're going to have when somebody has already fled one time," he said. "I hope the restrictions put in place will be sufficient."
NBC 5 law enforcement expert Don Peritz said if she tampers with the ankle monitor, it could land her back in jail.
"The monitor would send a signal back to the home unit that something is wrong," Peritz said. "The home unit would make a phone call and let the person that's monitoring her know that something is wrong, and they may have an immediate warrant for her arrest issued."
Tonya Couch will have to pay $60 per month for the monitoring service.
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"It's easier than being in jail for everybody involved," Peritz said. "It's cheaper for everybody involved, except for the person being monitored. Tarrant County does not have to feed her or have jail guards watch over her. In the long road, it's a better situation for everybody."
State District Judge Wayne Salvant said he understood prosecutors' concerns that Couch might flee again, but that the charge against her, while a third-degree felony, wasn't serious enough to merit a $1 million bond.
Ethan Couch was 16 when he killed four people in June 2013, ramming a pickup truck into a crowd of people trying to help stranded motorists on the side of a North Texas road. He was driving at nearly three times the legal limit for adult drivers.
A juvenile court judge gave Couch 10 years' probation, outraging prosecutors who had called for the teen to face detention time. The case drew widespread derision after an expert called by Couch's lawyers argued Couch had been coddled into a sense of irresponsibility by his wealthy parents, a condition the expert called "affluenza."
Despite all of the previous testimony about Ethan Couch's wealthy upbringing, his mother's attorneys have argued that she had few assets to her own name and couldn't pay the cost of a $1 million bond.
Another of Tonya Couch's sons, Steven McWilliams, testified Monday that the balance on a bank account belonging to her read "-$99 billion."
Tonya Couch is separated from Fred Couch, Ethan's father, who owns a suburban Fort Worth business that does large-scale metal roofing.
According to an arrest warrant, Tonya Couch is accused of taking $30,000 and telling Fred Couch that he would never see her or Ethan again before fleeing.
The couple originally married in 1996, but divorced 10 years later. They remarried in April 2011, but court records show they are amid divorce proceedings, haven't been living together as husband and wife since at least August 2014, and that Fred Couch's attorneys couldn't locate Tonya Couch as of Dec. 21.
Law enforcement officials believe the mother and son had a going away party shortly before driving across the border in her pickup truck.
They were first tracked to a resort condominium after ordering pizza before police found them at an apartment in Puerto Vallarta's old town.
When they were arrested, Ethan Couch appeared to have tried to disguise himself by dying his blond hair black and his beard brown, according to investigators.