The Cable

‘Affluenza’ Teen Returns to the United States

Ethan Couch's lawyers argued he was not responsible for causing the deaths of four people in a drunk-driving accident because his affluent upbringing had not instilled in him a sense of responsibility.


Ethan Couch, better known as the “affluenza teen” responsible for killing for people while driving drunk in 2013, was deported Thursday back to the United States from Mexico, where he fled after fearing he had violated the terms of his parole.

Couch was promptly handed over to a juvenile detention center after arriving at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. His case now rests with a Texas juvenile court, which will decide whether he will be transferred to the adult judicial system since he is now 18 years old.

In December 2013, Couch was sentenced to 10 years parole and ordered to attend a rehab after facility killing four people in a drunken driving accident. At that hearing, his lawyers infamously argued Couch was unable to comprehend the consequences of his decision decision to get behind the wheel after having been drinking because of his affluent upbringing.

Couch fled the United States after a video surfaced in December of last year allegedly showing him attending a party and drinking, a possible violation of the terms of his parole. He was arrested in Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 28 with his mother, who had accompanied him to Mexico.

His mother, Tonya Couch, agreed to be extradited and returned to the United States on Jan. 7. But Ethan Couch fought — and lost — his extradition in a Mexican court.

During his U.S. trial, a psychologist argued the young man’s privileged upbringing had failed to instill in him a sense of responsibility. That argument has been widely ridiculed since Couch gained international notoriety by fleeing to Mexico. “Affluenza” is not a medical condition recognized by psychologists.


Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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