FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The Texas teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck has been sent from juvenile to adult court and will remain jailed until a judge decides terms of his probation.
On Friday, the judge moved 18-year-old Ethan Couch into the adult system and ordered that he be detained for another 10 days while his case is reviewed.
Authorities say Couch and his mother fled the U.S. in December as Texas prosecutors investigated whether he violated his probation in the 2013 wreck that killed four people.
Couch was deported from Mexico in late January and booked in the Tarrant County Jail earlier this month. Here's a look at what happened Friday and what lies ahead:
Couch's attorney, Scott Brown, did not fight the transfer of the case to adult court. Although he has not explained the move, the punishment could have been greater if the judge kept the case in the juvenile system.
Staying in juvenile court could have set off a series of hearings to determine if Couch violated his existing probation, which could have led to 10 years in adult prison when he ages out of the juvenile system at 19.
By having the case transferred to the adult system, Couch will not face the threat of decades in prison unless he violates probation in the future. He may, however, face up to several months in the county jail.
Couch will remain in the Tarrant County Jail for another 10 days awaiting the judge's decision on his probation.
The judge could order him to spend up to 120 days in jail as part of an adult sentence related to the 2013 drunken-driving crash, then finish the remainder of his 10-year probation without additional time behind bars. If he violates his adult probation during that time, he could get up to 10 years in prison for each of the four people killed in the wreck.
NEXT STEPS FOR TONYA COUCH
Couch's mother, Tonya, is under house arrest at her other son's home after she was charged with helping Ethan flee to Mexico as authorities investigated whether he violated terms of his probation by drinking alcohol. A video surfaced in December that appeared to show Couch at a party where people were drinking. Couch and his mother are believed to have fled to Mexico shortly thereafter.
The 48-year-old faces two to 10 years in prison if convicted of hindering the apprehension of a felon.
Tonya and Ethan Couch were arrested in the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 28, after a call for pizza delivery tipped off authorities to their whereabouts. Tonya Couch was deported in December, and then released on bond after being fitted with an ankle GPS monitor.
The first of five court dates, during which a judge will check that Tonya Couch is abiding by the terms of her bond, has not been scheduled. Five court settings must take place before any trial begins unless she makes a plea, according to Tarrant County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Samantha Jordan.
Tonya Couch's attorney, Stephanie Patten, has previously said her client did not break any state laws.