Arrest Warrant Issued for Missing 'Affluenza' Teen Ethan Couch

Authorities are looking for teen who avoided jail after drunken-driving deaths.

ByABC News
December 16, 2015, 12:20 PM

— -- An arrest warrant has been issued for the Texas teen who avoided jail time in the drunken-driving deaths of four people two years ago because he has failed to check in with his probation officer, according to Tarrant County Juvenile Services and the teenager's lawyers.

There is an arrest warrant or "directive to apprehend" Ethan Couch, who was sentenced to probation, but his case is still in juvenile court, Randy Turner, the chief juvenile probation officer for the county, told ABC News today.

Tarrant District Attorney's office spokeswoman Samantha Jordan said the office is "looking into the whereabouts of Ethan and [his mother] Tonya Couch at this time."

Couch's lawyers said the teen had been living with his mother and has not been in contact with his probation officer.

"We have recently learned that, for the last several days, the juvenile probation officer has been unable to make contact with Ethan or his mother with whom he has been residing," Couch's lawyers, Reagan Wynn and Scott Brown, said in an email to ABC News. "It is our understanding that the court has issued a directive to apprehend, to have Ethan detained because he is out of contact with his probation officer."

Couch, now 18, was sentenced in 2013 to 10 years of probation and later ordered to enter rehab after he plowed into a group of people in Burleson, Texas, while driving drunk after a party. Couch’s probation terms stated he could not drive, drink alcohol or use drugs. Violating those terms could result in a jail sentence of up to 10 years, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office said at the time.

Couch is already under investigation after a video posted on social media appears to show him next to a drinking game, possibly in violation of this probation, Jordan told ABC News earlier this month. The six-second video, posted on Twitter Dec. 2, purportedly shows Couch clapping and laughing after another man jumps on a beer pong table in a room. That investigation is still ongoing, Jordan said.

The district attorney's office opened an investigation on Couch when the video first surfaced, Jordan said.

On June 15, 2013, Couch, then 16, got behind the wheel of his pick-up truck with more than three times the legal amount of alcohol in his system, according to authorities.

Police say the teen was barreling down a road when he lost control and struck a group of people helping a stranded driver on the side of the road. The crash killed the motorist and three bystanders; two passengers in Couch's truck were sent to the hospital with serious injuries.

Couch's defense team, which included psychologist Dr. G. Dick Miller, argued that the teen suffered from "affluenza," meaning his irresponsible behavior and lifestyle were a product of his affluent upbringing and "profoundly dysfunctional" parents.

Although lawyers in the case did not specifically use "affluenza" as Couch's defense, Miller used the term in his testimony as a paid witness for the defense.

On Dec. 4, 2013, Couch pleaded guilty to four accounts of intoxication manslaughter and two accounts of intoxication assault. His lawyers argued the teen should go to rehab instead of jail, and Miller reportedly said Couch should be separated from his parents for a period of time.