U.S. Marshals Service/Jalisco State Prosecutors Office
Now playing
03:05
'Affluenza' teen Ethan Couch detained in Mexico
ethan couch affluenza teen adult prison presser _00001713.jpg
KTVT
ethan couch affluenza teen adult prison presser _00001713.jpg
Now playing
00:50
'Affluenza' teen Ethan Couch transferred to adult jail
U.S. Marshals Service/Jalisco State Prosecutors Office
Now playing
01:05
Ethan Couch won't fight if transferred to adult court
Affluenza teen Ethan Couch returning U.S. lavandera_00012520.jpg
INM
Affluenza teen Ethan Couch returning U.S. lavandera_00012520.jpg
Now playing
01:25
'Affluenza' teen returning to the U.S.
Tarrant County Police
Now playing
01:43
'Affluenza' teen's mom arraigned in court
affluenza teen ethan couch sheriff sot_00004304.jpg
Jalisco State Prosecutor's Office/Tarrant Co. Police
affluenza teen ethan couch sheriff sot_00004304.jpg
Now playing
02:45
'Affluenza' teen Ethan Couch's mom deported back to U.S.
ethan couch Affluenza texas teen parents dnt kaye ac_00012211.jpg
KTVT
ethan couch Affluenza texas teen parents dnt kaye ac_00012211.jpg
Now playing
02:49
Closer look at 'affluenza' teen's parents
affluenza teen Ethan Couch missing victim newday_00000000.jpg
KTVT
affluenza teen Ethan Couch missing victim newday_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:31
Victim's dad: 'No surprise' affluenza teen is missing
ac panel affluenza_00005120.jpg
WFAA
ac panel affluenza_00005120.jpg
Now playing
03:10
'Affluenza' teen and mom now missing
texas affluenza drunken driving teen missing pkg_00003414.jpg
KTVT/KTXA
texas affluenza drunken driving teen missing pkg_00003414.jpg
Now playing
01:22
Warrant out for Ethan Couch, the 'affluenza' teen
(CNN) -- So-called "affluenza" teen Ethan Couch and his mother have been detained by Mexican authorities near a popular Pacific resort town, officials briefed on the matter told CNN. 
       Couch, 18, went missing earlier this month in Texas where he was under probation for a 2013 drunk driving crash that killed four people and drew nationwide attention over his lawyers' use of his privileged upbringing as part of their defense at trial.
       He and his mother were detained near the Mexican beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, roughly 950 miles from home, officials told CNN on Monday. 
      The teenager is expected to be turned over to the U.S. Marshals Service, which has spent weeks searching for him. A spokesman for the service declined to comment Monday.
      Couch is wanted by authorities in Tarrant County, Texas, for allegedly violating his probation. His mother, Tonya, was listed by Texas authorities as a missing person after her son's disappearance, and the authorities said they believed she was assisting him.
ABC News/Jalisco's prosecutor
(CNN) -- So-called "affluenza" teen Ethan Couch and his mother have been detained by Mexican authorities near a popular Pacific resort town, officials briefed on the matter told CNN. Couch, 18, went missing earlier this month in Texas where he was under probation for a 2013 drunk driving crash that killed four people and drew nationwide attention over his lawyers' use of his privileged upbringing as part of their defense at trial. He and his mother were detained near the Mexican beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, roughly 950 miles from home, officials told CNN on Monday. The teenager is expected to be turned over to the U.S. Marshals Service, which has spent weeks searching for him. A spokesman for the service declined to comment Monday. Couch is wanted by authorities in Tarrant County, Texas, for allegedly violating his probation. His mother, Tonya, was listed by Texas authorities as a missing person after her son's disappearance, and the authorities said they believed she was assisting him.
Now playing
04:09
Victim's husband on 'affluenza' sentence
AC Kaye affluenza case lawsuit ethan couch_00023004.jpg
AC Kaye affluenza case lawsuit ethan couch_00023004.jpg
Now playing
02:40
Victim: 'Affluenza' boy never apologized
ac affluenza kth_00023404.jpg
ac affluenza kth_00023404.jpg
Now playing
03:13
Lawyer blames media in 'affluenza' case
dnt affluenza father arrested_00000806.jpg
KTVT
dnt affluenza father arrested_00000806.jpg
Now playing
01:36
'Affluenza' teen's father arrested
AC Kaye affluenza case lawsuit ethan couch_00023004.jpg
AC Kaye affluenza case lawsuit ethan couch_00023004.jpg
Now playing
01:51
'Affluenza' lawyer says teen acts 12
Affluenza not our defense Wynn Newday _00011812.jpg
Affluenza not our defense Wynn Newday _00011812.jpg
Now playing
02:42
Laywer: 'Affluenza' was not our defense
ac live Lavandera Texas D.A. wants jail for teen affluenza_00000315.jpg
ac live Lavandera Texas D.A. wants jail for teen affluenza_00000315.jpg
Now playing
02:08
'Affluenza' teen killed 4, sent to rehab
ac panel affluenza_00005120.jpg
WFAA
ac panel affluenza_00005120.jpg
Now playing
05:18
'Affluenza' teen could still face jail
ac dick miller pt 2_00070306.jpg
ac dick miller pt 2_00070306.jpg
Now playing
02:41
Cooper rips into 'affluenza' defender
AC Kaye affluenza case lawsuit ethan couch_00023004.jpg
AC Kaye affluenza case lawsuit ethan couch_00023004.jpg
Now playing
04:24
'Affluenza' defense sparks outrage
ac tuchman sergio malina affluenza case_00000319.jpg
Malina Family Photo
ac tuchman sergio malina affluenza case_00000319.jpg
Now playing
04:10
Victim's family: Affluenza is 'nonsense'
ac cooper g dick miller affluenza treatment_00025721.jpg
ac cooper g dick miller affluenza treatment_00025721.jpg
Now playing
03:06
Psychologist defends 'affluenza' decision
ac pkg kaye affluenza defense_00000426.jpg
WFAA
ac pkg kaye affluenza defense_00000426.jpg
Now playing
02:58
Teen avoids jail with 'affluenza' defense

Story highlights

NEW: Sheriff: "They made a conscious decision to run, and they did"

Official: Ethan Couch and his mother are expected to return to U.S. on Wednesday

They were found inside an apartment building in Puerto Vallarta, officials say

CNN —  

Will Ethan Couch, the “affluenza” teen, get off lightly again?

Couch drew the ire of many after a judge sentenced the then 16-year-old to 10 years of probation for a 2013 drunk driving crash that killed four people.

Those who felt the sentence too lenient felt validated when Couch violated his probation and fled. He was detained Monday in Mexico.

But if you are expecting a judge to throw the book at him, be warned that the book might not be too heavy.

As of now, the most severe punishment Couch could face is 120 days in adult jail, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said at a press conference Tuesday.

Opinion: Ethan Couch recklessly abused court’s trust

The district attorney explained the dilemma she faces:

• Ethan Couch was sentenced as a juvenile and violated his probation as ordered by the juvenile court system.

• Under Texas law, Couch, now 18, would be punished for his violation in the juvenile system.

• The maximum sentence that a juvenile judge can dish out for a violation of his juvenile probation is imprisonment in a juvenile facility until Couch turns 19, which is April 11, 2016.

• The DA wants to transfer Couch’s sentence to adult court. But since this violation happened in the juvenile system, Couch effectively would start with a clean slate in the adult probation system. That is, the adult court judge could not punish Couch for violations he committed as a juvenile.

• At the time a judge reassesses Couch’s probation in the adult system, he has the power to put Couch in adult jail for a maximum of 120 days.

The cure for ‘affluenza’ is prison

The 120 days in jail won’t please those who think Couch deserves worse, but as the facts stand now, it is what the law allows.

If Couch ends up on adult probation and violates it as an adult, he could face up to 40 years in jail, Wilson said. Couch also could find himself behind bars for longer if he is found to have committed any new crimes and is charged and convicted as an adult for those crimes.

Couch and his mother, who were being sought by Texas authorities, have been detained in the Pacific resort town town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Ethan Couch’s mother, Tonya Couch, has been charged with hindering the apprehension of a juvenile, and if convicted, faces between two and 10 years in jail, Wilson said.

It’s tough to explain the legal maze that stands to benefit Ethan Couch in the form of a light punishment for violating his probation.

The judge who hears the case “will throw the book at him, but the book is only a few more months because he turns 19,” said Larry Seidlin, a former state court and juvenile court judge in Florida. “So the legal issue is: Can the prosecutor move this case to adult court and try to get adult sanctions, get some state prison time. It’s a close question because double jeopardy is going to take effect. We’ve already gone through his case. We’ve already done a plea bargain.”

Tracking the teen

A warrant was issued in mid-December for Couch to be taken into custody after his probation officer couldn’t reach him. He appears to have dropped off the radar after a video emerged that allegedly showed him at a party where alcohol was being consumed, according to authorities.

Couch had been ordered to stay away from drugs and alcohol for the duration of his probation.

When Couch was captured in Mexico with dark hair and dark goatee, Texas authorities say the 18-year-old had the look of someone on the run, trying to change his appearance.

“I don’t think you go on a vacation and disappear, and don’t tell anybody, and cut your hair and dye your hair, and hide out in a shabby apartment in a resort town. … They fought so hard to keep him out of trouble when he killed four innocent people drinking three times the legal limit of alcohol, there’s no doubt in my mind that when the video came out that showed him at that party and he was facing a possible revocation of probation, they made a conscious decision to run, and they did,” Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson told CNN’s AC360 on Tuesday.

Before they left for Mexico, they “even had something that was almost akin to a going away party,” Anderson told reporters.

Weeks later, Couch’s cell phone use might have led authorities to the pair.