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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was in the courtroom when a judge decided to move ‘affluenza’ teen Ethan Couch’s case to adult court.

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“With all of the tragedy and heartbreak caused by the Couch case, for the first time, we can see a glimpse of hope from the criminal justice system,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church, whose 18-year-old son Dustin was killed by an underage drunk and drugged driver.

Sheehey-Church attended Couch’s long-awaited transfer hearing today to support the prosecution’s motion to transfer Couch from juvenile to adult court and to support the victims of the violent crime committed by Couch.

Maria Lemus and Sergio Molina came to Couch's hearing with their son Sergio E. Molina, who was riding in the bed of Couch's truck and suffered a traumatic brain injury. According to a suit filed by the family, Molina's medical expenses exceeded an estimated $600,000 at the time and could top $10 million if he needs round-the-clock care. (credit: CBS11 News)

Maria Lemus and Sergio Molina came to Couch’s hearing with their son Sergio E. Molina, who was riding in the bed of Couch’s truck and suffered a traumatic brain injury. According to a suit filed by the family, Molina’s medical expenses exceeded an estimated $600,000 at the time and could top $10 million if he needs round-the-clock care. (credit: CBS11 News)

If the judge did not move Couch’s case from juvenile to adult court, he would simply age out of the system when he turns 19 years old on April 11.

Last month, MADD launched the #FightAffluenza petition demanding a transfer of Couch’s case from juvenile to adult court. MADD asked the nation for 30,000 signatures; within 24 hours MADD exceeded their goal. Friday morning before the transfer hearing, MADD privately provided 50,782 signatures to the prosecution.

“50,782 people and millions more are experiencing hope and encouragement after today’s outcome. But, our fight is not over,” continued Sheehey-Church. “This is only the first step. The sentence Couch received two years ago was a joke, and it’s more than overdue for the criminal justice system to replace his privilege with prison. We ask that the judge make prison time a condition during Couch’s next hearing.”

Couch violated the terms of his probation when he left the country after failing to appear at a December meeting with his probation officer. Now that Couch has to answer for his crime in adult court, MADD wants the judge to make prison time as a condition at Couch’s first hearing in adult court.

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“Couch needs to serve time behind bars. We ask the nation to closely follow this case, follow MADD’s next steps – and support us. We need everyone to rally against the country’s complacency of drunk driving, and fight Affluenza and the litany of other excuses that drunk drivers use to justify the killing and injuring of innocent people,” Sheehey-Church urged.

Couch’s attorney will not fight the move, as there are no legal grounds to appeal. Couch left the courthouse just after the judge announced the decision, now clean shaven, wearing a red jumpsuit and handcuffs. He made no comment.

The teen will soon serve the remainder of his 10-year probation under the jurisdiction of the adult system. His new conditions will be determined at a later date, just before the transfer on his birthday. Those conditions will likely be more strict than what he had faced before, with increased monitoring and harsher consequences for violating the terms.

The new conditions could include a GPS ankle monitor, or even alcohol monitoring and testing at his home. Prosecutors could also seek some amount of prison time, likely between 120 and 180 days.

Defense attorney Scott Brown said, “I don’t anticipate that we will have any issue with reasonable probation conditions. If, at some point, we feel like they’re unreasonable — and we have a legal argument — then, yes, we will continue to represent Ethan and do everything that’s in his best interest.”

For those personally impacted by the Couch case, or any one impacted by drunk driving, drugged driving and underage drinking consequences, MADD Victim Services are available at no charge, serving one person every fifteen minutes through local victim advocates and MADD’s 24-Hour Victim Helpline, 1-877-MADD-HELP.

MADD is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking.

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