A Lake County man convicted in a hit-and-run that killed a correctional officer and injured three others in 2012 will not be getting his driver’s license back anytime soon, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The appeals court upheld a Lake Superior Court ruling denying Jason R. Cozmanoff’s petition for limited driving privileges, finding that under state law, he was ineligible to have those privileges reinstated.
Cozmanoff was sentenced in 2014 to an aggregate 12 years executed in the Department of Correction after a jury found him guilty of striking four correctional officers who were running alongside a road, resulting in the death of Lake County Corrections Officer Britney Meux.
Cozmanoff was convicted of Class C felony counts of reckless homicide and failing to stop after an accident resulting in death, two counts of Class D felony criminal recklessness and misdemeanor counts of criminal recklessness and reckless driving.
In filing for specialized driving privileges earlier this year, Cozmanoff sought a license that would have permitted him to drive for work, visitation with his children and other limited purposes. The state objected, citing I.C. § 9-30-16-2(c): “If a person is convicted of an offense that includes the element of causing the death of another person and the offense involved the operation of a motor vehicle … the court shall order that the person’s driving privileges are suspended for a period of at least two (2) years and not more than the maximum allowable period of incarceration of the criminal penalty for the offense. A person whose driving privileges are suspended under this section is not eligible for specialized driving privileges under section 3 of this chapter.”
The Lake Superior Court rejected Cozmanoff’s petition, and the appellate panel affirmed in Jason R. Cozmanoff v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-1426. But the panel noted that in the time since Cozmanoff’s conviction, the statute governing such cases has changed.
“We observe that, prior to January 1, 2015, due to his conviction for reckless homicide as a result of an automobile accident, Cozmanoff would not have been eligible for restricted driving privileges. See Ind. Code §§ 9-24-15-1 and -2 (repealed eff. Jan. 1, 2015),” Judge Robert Altice wrote for the panel.
“Additionally, pursuant to Ind. Code § 9-30-16-2(c), he is not eligible for specialized driving privileges under Ind. Code § 9-30-16-3 because his offense under Count I included the element of causing the death of another person and the offense involved the operation of a motor vehicle. Also, although now repealed Ind. Code § 9-30-13-4 provided that the court ‘shall recommend the suspension’ of the person’s driving privileges whereas Ind. Code § 9-30-16-2(c) provides the court ‘shall order’ that the person’s privileges be suspended, we note that on February 7, 2014, the trial court ordered that Cozmanoff’s license be suspended, and we are not persuaded that he may now obtain specialized driving privileges by way of Ind. Code § 9-30-16-4 which relates to individuals whose driving privileges were suspended by administrative action and not by a court order.
“We conclude the trial court’s denial of Cozmanoff’s petition for specialized driving privileges gives effect to the legislature’s intent.”