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"Affluenza" teen Ethan Couch may be jailed for nearly 2 years

A Texas judge ruled that Ethan Couch will face justice as an adult after he turns 19 in April
Victim's family speaks out on Ethan Couch's DUI case 01:58

FORT WORTH, Texas --ATexas teenager who used an "affluenza" defense in a fatal drunken-driving wreck was ordered Wednesday to serve 720 days in a county jail.

Ethan Couch appeared in adult court for the first time Monday, when a judge announced he is ordering the 19-year-old to serve four 180 day terms consecutively, one term for each of the four people who died in a 2013 drunken driving wreck involving the teen.

Tarrant County Criminal Court Judge Wayne Salvant, on April 13, 2016. CBS DFW

Judge Wayne Salvant gave Couch's attorneys two weeks to prepare arguments related to the sentences.

"Nothing I do is set in stone," Salvant said, adding that he might reconsider the order.

His defense said in court Wednesday that the terms of Couch's original juvenile court conviction meant he should have expected between 120 and 180 days in jail.

The judge also set several conditions for Couch's probation when he does leave jail. Couch will not be allowed to drink, use drugs or drive, and he will be required to meet regularly with a community supervision officer.

Salvant also ordered that Couch's juvenile court records be sealed. He can order Couch to serve between 120 and 180 days in jail.

In June 2013, at age 16, Ethan Couch was driving drunk and speeding when he crashed into a disabled SUV on the side of the road, killing four people and injuring nine others. Many of the victims had been helping the woman whose SUV had stalled, others were in Ethan Couch's pickup truck. The 16-year-old's blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit for an adult and there were traces of Valium in his system.

Couch pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. When a juvenile court judge sentenced him to 10 years probation, there was widespread outrage in Tarrant County.

During the sentencing phase of his trial, Couch's attorneys relied on a defense expert who argued that Couch's wealthy parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility - a condition the expert termed "affluenza." The condition is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, and its invocation drew widespread ridicule.

Tonya Couch is taken by authorities to a waiting car after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport Dec. 31, 2015, in Los Angeles.
Tonya Couch is taken by authorities to a waiting car after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport Dec. 31, 2015, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Authorities say Couch and his mother, Tonya, fled the U.S. in December, as Texas prosecutors investigated whether a video showing the teen at a party where alcohol was present meant he violated his probation.

Ethan Couch was extradited back to the U.S. on Jan. 28. He has spent most of his days since then in solitary confinement at Tarrant County maximum-security prison. Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson has said Ethan Couch was isolated from other inmates for his own protection.

His case was formally transferred from juvenile court to the adult legal system on April 11, his 19th birthday.

Salvant could make prison a condition of any future probation violation. In such a case, Couch could face up to 40 years behind bars -- 10 years for each person who died in the 2013 wreck.

Tonya Couch is on house arrest at her other son's home after she was charged with helping Ethan Couch flee. The 48-year-old faces between two and 10 years in prison if convicted of hindering the apprehension of a felon.

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