Drunk driver gets probation for health reasons | RecordCourier.com

Drunk driver gets probation for health reasons

by Sheila Gardner

Nearly four years after a 47-year-old Gardnerville man was arrested for drunk driving and eluding a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy, he was sentenced Monday to probation.

District Judge Michael Gibbons sentenced Steven John Kozlowski to four years in prison, suspended, and placed him on three years probation.

Citing Kozlowski’s deteriorating mental and physical condition, Gibbons said the defendant didn’t represent a threat to the community.

Kozlowski attended the sentencing in a wheelchair. His lawyers presented letters from Kozlowski’s doctors that incarceration would seriously set back his treatment.

According to his doctors, he suffers from a traumatic brain injury, nerve damage, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“He doesn’t present a threat at this time,” Gibbons said. “Obviously, he’s not driving. A length of time has lapsed between this offense and today, and there have been no problems. He also served a prison sentence during this time period.”

The charges stem from an Aug. 22, 2009, arrest after deputies said Kozlowski was intoxicated, and speeding on his motorcycle up to 90 mph as he drove south on Highway 395 into the Gardnerville Ranchos.

At a preliminary hearing in December 2011, the arresting officers alleged that Kozlowski ignored commands to stop, struggled with officers, kicked and yelled obscenities once he was apprehended.

According to reports, his blood-alcohol content was .167, more than twice the legal limit. He also reportedly had marijuana in his system.

He served a November 2010 sentence of 12-30 months for felony DUI out of Carson City. He received an honorable discharge.

While in prison, he suffered several falls and appeared in court earlier last year in a protective headgear.

Gibbons said he’d had an opportunity since Kozlowski’s arrest to observe his deteriorating condition.

“His medical condition has risen to such a level that despite the offense, it changes the way this has to be viewed,” Gibbons said.

The judge said Kozlowski’s treatment could best be met by being able to go see his doctors and being treated at his home.

In March, Kozlowski pleaded guilty to attempting to elude police officers and misdemeanor drunk driving.

As a result of his plea, he avoided a mandatory return to prison for a second felony DUI.

The state also dropped two counts of battery on an officer.

“This brings this chapter of your life to a close,” Gibbons told the defendant. “Please follow all medical recommendations.”

Gibbons also ordered that Kozlowski’s motorcycle be returned. It had been held as evidence since his arrest.

The judge forbade him from driving as long as he’s on probation.

He is subject to search and seizure, must abstain from alcohol and controlled substances without prescription, and complete anger management classes.

His lawyer said Kozlowski’s medication prevents him from using alcohol.

Kozlowski must pay nearly $1,000 in fines and fees and complete a Victim Impact Panel.

Gibbons waived attorneys’ fees after his lawyers said Kozlowski and his wife lived on $2,000 a month.

Kozlowski has three prior felony convictions and several misdemeanors.

He faced up to six years in prison on the eluding charge.

He and his wife Michelle have filed a lawsuit against the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the officers who arrested him on allegations of excessive force.

A jury trial is set to begin before Gibbons on Jan. 7, 2014.

The Kozlowskis are representing themselves in the litigation.