A court has ordered Tonya Couch, the mother of “affluenza teen” Ethan Couch, to undergo a mental exam.
Tarrant County, Texas, Magistrate Judge Matt King ordered Tonya Couch to be examined after the court found “reasonable cause” to believe that she suffers from “a mental illness or is a person with a mental retardation,” according to court documents.
The order was issued Friday and must be completed within 30 days.
Authorities accuse Couch of helping her son leave the country to avoid a probation hearing that may have led to jail time for him. She faces a charge of hindering the apprehension of a felon and was arraigned Friday in Fort Worth. She did not enter a formal plea.
She arrived in Texas on Thursday after a Los Angeles judge approved her extradition more than a week after Mexican authorities detained mother and son in a Pacific resort town.
The mother will plead not guilty, said Stephanie Patton, her attorney.
The mental examination will determine whether there is clinical evidence to support the argument that Tonya Couch may be incompetent to stand trial.
Before she and her son fled to Mexico, she withdrew $30,000 from her account and told her husband that he would not see them again, an arrest affidavit stated.
Before he went to Mexico, Ethan Couch was on probation for killing four people in a drunken driving accident in 2013, when he was 16 years old.
At the time, outrage followed when a judge sentenced him to probation instead of jail time. During the trial, his lawyers cited the now notorious “affluenza” defense, suggesting he was too rich and spoiled to understand the consequences of his actions.
Ethan Couch is still in Mexico, and his return to the United States largely depends on whether he decides to contest his deportation. Last week, a Mexican judge granted the teen a temporary stay, halting deportation proceedings.
On Monday, Mothers Against Drunk Driving started a petition supporting Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson’s decision to ask for Ethan Couch to be moved from the juvenile justice system to the adult criminal system.