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Mr. Tumelty represented Helena Hendricks, who was charged with first degree murder in Atlantic County Superior Court. The defendant faced a number of additional charges, including armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of a handgun for an unlawful purpose. At the conclusion of a jury trial that lasted three weeks, the defendant was found "not guilty" of all charges.

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Mom of “Affluenza” Teen Faces Serious Criminal Charges

South Jersey Criminal Defense LawyersThe mom of the teenager who avoided a serious prison sentence in a vehicular manslaughter case by claiming that he was a victim of “affluenza” could soon be headed to prison herself.

Tonya Couch, the 49-year-old mother of 18-year-old Ethan Couch, drew a great deal of scrutiny after she allegedly helped Ethan flee to Mexico in order to avoid the consequences of a reported parole violation. Now she could face criminal charges.

Ethan Couch and the “Affluenza” Defense

Ethan Couch received national attention when he was charged with vehicular manslaughter in connection with a fatal drunk driving accident that killed four people on a Texas road. Ethan Couch was behind the wheel of a car and allegedly intoxicated as he crashed into another vehicle that was parked on the side of the road.

There appeared to be little doubt that Ethan Couch was legally responsible for the accident. However, his criminal defense attorneys were able to convince a Texas judge that their client should not be found guilty because he suffered from “affluenza.”

Although the disease sounds like something a skilled criminal defense lawyer might fabricate in order to help their client avoid conviction, medical experts took the stand during the trial and declared that affluenza is a very real psychological disease that afflicts some people who grow up with immense wealth and who end up developing feelings of guilt and a sense of isolation.

Ethan Couch initially managed to avoid prison – receiving only probation – after his “affluenza” defense was successful at trial. After a parole violation, however, Ethan Couch fled the country in order to avoid consequences that included mandatory prison time.

Tonya Couch Faces Criminal Charges

Ethan’s mother, Tonya Couch, is also in hot water because she allegedly helped her son flee across the border and hide in Mexico.

Despite a media spotlight being shined on the mother and her son, both Couches were able to steer clear of police and avoid being located for several weeks. They were eventually apprehended on December 28, 2015, just a few days before New Year’s Day. Law enforcement captured them in the coastal town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Federal authorities subsequently extradited the pair back to the United States so that they could stand trial on various criminal charges.

While Tonya Couch awaits trial, she is free on bail. According to Tarrant County TX officials, Tonya Couch secured her release from police custody by posting a bond amount of $75,000. Meanwhile, law enforcement has taken steps to ensure that Tonya Couch does not flee again: she is currently under electronic surveillance and is required to check in with Texas police on a weekly basis.

For additional information about this high-profile case, view the article, “Mom of ‘Affluenza’ Teen Ethan Couch Indicted for Helping Son Escape to Mexico.”


If you or a loved one has been charged with vehicular manslaughter in connection with a DWI accident, it is imperative that you speak with a qualified criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. John W. Tumelty is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you fight the penalties and stay out of jail. Contact Mr. Tumelty today for a free consultation about your case.

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