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Cozmanoff v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 22, 2019

Jason R. Cozmanoff, Appellant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee.

          Appeal from the Lake Superior Court No. 45G01-1203-FC-28. The Honorable Salvador Vasquez, Judge.

          Attorneys for Appellant Paul G. Stracci J. Michael Woods Stracci Criminal Defense, P.C. Crown Point, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Caryn N. Szyper Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          BROWN, JUDGE.

         [¶1] Jason R. Cozmanoff appeals the trial court's denial of his petition for specialized driving privileges. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In March 2012, Cozmanoff was driving and struck four correctional officers who were running alongside the road, resulting in the death of one of the officers and injuries to the others, and Cozmanoff did not stop. On February 7, 2014, following a jury trial, the court sentenced him to four years for reckless homicide as a class C felony under Count I; one year for criminal recklessness as a class A misdemeanor under Count II; one and one-half years for each of two counts of criminal recklessness as class D felonies under Counts III and IV; four years for failure to stop after an accident resulting in death as a class C felony under Count V; and six months for reckless driving as a class B misdemeanor under Count XIII. The court ordered the sentences in Counts I through V to be served consecutively and concurrent to that in Count XIII for an aggregate sentence of twelve years. The order provides in part:

Pursuant to IC 9-30-13-4, [1] the Court orders that the defendant's operator's license be suspended for a period of three (3) years as to Count I, by the Bureau of Motion [sic] Vehicles. Pursuant to IC 9-30-4-6.5, [2] the imposition of the suspensions are delayed until the defendant is released from the Department of Correction or on parole. The clerk is directed to notify the Bureau of Motor Vehicle.

Appellant's Appendix Volume II at 29.

         [¶3] On May 1, 2019, Cozmanoff filed a verified petition for specialized driving privileges citing Ind. Code § 9-30-16-3.[3] On May 17, 2019, Cozmanoff filed an amended petition for specialized driving privileges citing Ind. Code § 9-30-16-4[4]and alleging the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles gave notice to him that his license would be suspended from June 14, 2019, until June 14, 2022. He sought specialized driving privileges to travel for work, visitation with his children, medical appointments, and grocery and warehouse or department store visits. On May 29, 2019, the State filed a response to Cozmanoff's amended petition arguing it is undisputed that his reckless homicide conviction stemmed from the use of a motor vehicle and that, based on Ind. Code § 9-30-16-2(c), [5] he is not eligible for specialized driving privileges. On June 3, 2019, the court held a hearing and entered an order finding that Cozmanoff "is not eligible for a specialized driving privilege under I.C. 9-30-13-4 (repealed), now codified under I.C. 9-30-16-2(c)" and denying his petition for specialized driving privileges. Appellant's Appendix Volume II at 27.

         Discussion

         [¶4] Cozmanoff claims he is not ineligible for specialized driving privileges. He argues that Ind. Code § 9-30-16-2 was not in effect at the time that his license suspension was imposed. He further argues that, for a person convicted of reckless homicide involving a vehicle, Ind. Code § 9-30-16-2 requires that the court order that person's driving privileges suspended whereas, prior to January 1, 2015, Ind. Code § 9-30-13-4 (repealed) provided that the court would recommend the suspension of the person's driving privileges and Ind. Code § 9-30-4-6 provided that the bureau would suspend the person's driving privileges. (12-13) He argues "I.C. § 9-30-16-2(c) is silent as to suspensions imposed by the Bureau, or specialized driving privileges for those suspensions under Ind. Code § 9-30-16-4" and "[t]his creates two categories of license suspension based on a conviction for reckless homicide: those imposed prior to the effective date of I.C. § 9-30-16-2, which are eligible for specialized driving privileges, and those imposed after the effective date, which are not eligible." Appellant's Brief at 16.

         [¶5] The State maintains that Cozmanoff was unable to obtain relief from his license suspension under the applicable pre-2015 or current statutes. It argues he is prohibited from receiving specialized driving privileges under current Ind. Code § 9-30-16-2(c). It further states that "specialized driving privileges" did not exist in Indiana at the time his license suspension was imposed, that prior to 2015 suspended drivers could petition for "restricted" driving permits under Ind. Code § 9-24-15-2 (repealed Jan. 1, 2015) but that individuals convicted of reckless homicide as a result of an automobile accident were not eligible for a restricted permit under Ind. Code § 9-24-15-1 (repealed Jan. 1, 2015), and thus that Cozmanoff was disqualified from obtaining relief from his license suspension under the pre-2015 statutory scheme as well as the current statute. Appellee's Brief at 8-9. It asserts "the legislative intent has been clear for nearly 30 years" and that, "[u]nder both the restricted driving permit statutes and the specialized driving privileges statutes, the General Assembly excluded drivers, like Cozmanoff, who were convicted of recklessly killing someone with their motor vehicle, from receiving relief from their license suspensions." Id. at 13.

         [¶6] The decision to grant or deny a petition for specialized driving privileges is reviewable for an abuse of discretion. Orange v. Ind. Bureau of Motor Vehicles, 92 N.E.3d 1152, 1157 (Ind.Ct.App. 2018) (citing Jones v. State, 62 N.E.3d 1205, 1207 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016)). "The trial court has 'almost unfettered discretion' when deciding whether to grant a petition for specialized driving privileges." Id. (citing Jones, 62 N.E.3d at 1207 n.3). A question of statutory interpretation is a matter of law. Id. at 1155 (citation omitted). The primary purpose in statutory interpretation is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent. State v. Oddi-Smith, 878 N.E.2d 1245, 1248 (Ind. 2008). The best evidence of that intent is the language of the statute itself, and we strive to give the words in a ...


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