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“Affluenza” teen case highlights aspects of Texas juvenile justice system, P.2

In our last post, we began speaking a bit about the case of Ethan Couch, who has been called the “affluenza teen” in connection with arguments made in court in 2013 during his drunken driving case. As we noted, Couch is currently being transferred to the adult court system, which could actually a have a beneficial impact on his case.

It is likely that prosecutors will have little trouble getting Couch certified for the criminal system. Juvenile courts are required to consider a variety of factors when determining whether to certify. These factors include the consideration of: whether the child has committed an offense against a person; the previous record of the child; the likelihood the child will be able to rehabilitate within the juvenile system; and whether the safety and protection of the community require trial as an adult. 

Although Couch had been under the jurisdiction of the juvenile system, it is unlikely there will be difficulties in having him certified as an adult. Not only is he now 18, he has been implicated in a crime that left his victim paralyzed for life and has arguably proven he is not disposed to obey court-ordered probation. If Couch is transferred, he could end up spending up to 120 days in jail for the 2013 incident, and then complete what remains of a 10-year probation. It would only be after that that he could get significant prison time—up to 10 years.

For young people, having an advocate is important when navigating the certification process both to ensure that the court has all the information it needs to make a fair decision regarding the appropriateness of a transfer to the criminal system, and that the prosecuting attorneys handling the case are held to their full burden of proving the offense.  

Source: Texas Attorney General, 2014 Juvenile Justice Handbook, pg. 25. 

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