It could be "a couple of months" before Ethan Couch is sent back to the United States, his attorney tells ABC News
Couch, 18, was found in Mexico last week after a warrant was issued for him
His mother has been charged with hindering the apprehension of a felon
Ethan Couch, the so-called “affluenza” teen, may not be deported back to the United States for “a couple of months,” his lawyer told ABC News.
Prominent Mexican Attorney Fernando Benitez said Couch was about to be sent back to the United States before a Mexican judge granted the teen a temporary stay, which halted the deportation proceedings.
“To the extent of our knowledge, he has committed no crime at all in Mexico,” Benitez told CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield on “Legal View.” He said that Couch may have committed an administrative fault when entering Mexico. Benitez said he is not sure whether or not Couch had a tourist visa when entering Mexico.
If Couch chooses not to fight the deportation proceedings, he could return to the United States soon.
Couch and his mother, Tonya, were found in Mexico December 28 after going missing a few weeks earlier. The two entered the country as tourists but stayed longer than they were allowed to.
Ethan Couch was on probation for killing four people in a drunk driving accident in 2013, when he was 16. At the time, many were outraged that a judge sentenced him to probation instead of jail time, slamming his now-notorious “affluenza” defense – that he was too rich and spoiled to understand the consequences of his actions.
Deportation versus extradition
Benitez told CNN that he believes the Mexican government was trying to deport his client in order to avoid the lengthy process of extradition.
“We believe authorities are using the deportation – which is an executive prerogative here in Mexico, whereby the executive branch can deport any foreigner without cause and without a trial whenever they see fit – and they’re using that in lieu of an extradition,” Benitez said.
It’s now up to Couch to decide whether or not he wants to contest his deportation. Benitez said he would pose the question to Couch when he meets with him on Tuesday.
Couch is not being held in prison, but rather a migratory station, said Benitez. He described it as a “newer facility.”
He faces a maximum of 120 days in prison for his probation violation.
Did he violate probation?
In mid-December a warrant was issued for Couch to be taken into custody after his probation officer couldn’t reach him. He appeared to have dropped off the radar after a video emerged that allegedly showed him at a party where alcohol was consumed.
Couch had been ordered to stay away from drugs and alcohol for the duration of his probation.
The teen and his mother were found in an apartment in the resort city of Puerto Vallarta last week. Couch had dyed his hair.
“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,” Tarrant County, Texas, Sheriff Dee Anderson said last month. “They made a conscious decision to run, and they did.”
Anderson has also said the pair threw something akin to a “going-away party” before they disappeared.
Court dates in Tarrant County
Tonya Couch arrived back in the United States on Thursday. In video obtained by CNN, Couch can be seen in handcuffs with U.S. Marshals at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) upon her return from Mexico.
Texas prosecutors have charged her with hindering the apprehension of a felon and set bail at $1 million, which must be paid in Texas.
She has been in the custody of the Los Angeles Police Department since she landed. She will appear in court for a hearing in Los Angeles on Tuesday regarding extradition to Texas, according to the L.A. County district attorney’s office.
Tonya and Ethan Couch have court appearances in Texas scheduled for January 14 and 19.
CNN’s Stella Chan, Ben Brumfield and Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.