Law Office of Jack Kotchick

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'Affluenza' teen released on probation after serving time

Ethan Couch, the teenager whose name became synonymous with the excesses of privilege and wealth, has recently been released from prison after almost two years in custody.

Couch, who is now aged 20, first came to national attention when he was just 16-years-old. While driving drunk with a car full of his friends, he hit a group of people standing by the road, killing four of them. In addition, one of his passengers suffered paralysis and brain damage as a result of the accident.

There was an incredible amount of controversy surrounding the case. Prosecutors sought a 20-year term after the teenager accepted a guilty plea. The judge in the case, however, saw fit to extend the teenager a break after a psychologist testified that the teen's lavish upbringing had made him psychologically unable to recognize how wrong his actions were at the time. While many were outraged, the judge felt that 10 years of probation was a sufficient sentence.

Unfortunately, the young man -- encouraged, it would seem, by his mother -- didn't avail himself of the opportunity the judge offered. Pictures of the teen violating his probation and drinking appeared on social media, and the teen briefly fled to Mexico before eventually being apprehended.

According to sheriff's reports, however, the young man has been a model prisoner since then and apparently learned a great deal since his incarceration. He's been granted parole and will be subject to a number of restrictions for the remainder of his sentence.

While that's good news for the defendant, the entire story holds a few important lessons for other teenagers who make mistakes, including drunk driving. Judges are often willing to give young defendants the benefit of the doubt and the chance to correct their behaviors. But it's important not to overlook the opportunity when it's given. Even the most skillful drunk driving defense attorney can't protect a client from a failure to learn from his or her mistakes.

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Law Office of Jack Kotchick

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