Steven Kotlinski, of Hawthorn Woods, filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday claiming Mundelein police used “excessive and unjustifiable violence” when they pulled him from a vehicle early New Year’s Day January 1, 2010 and shocked him multiple times with a Taser.
Steven Kotlinski was riding in the passenger seat when his wife, Jean, the designated driver for the night, was pulled over at approximately 3:00 a.m. January 1, 2010. The driver is stopped because the license plate renewal sticker was observed to be expired by the police officer.
A police squad car video released by Mundelien Police Department shows police behind the Kotlinski’s personal vehicle. The vehicle’s driver uses a turn signal and appears to make a complete stop before making a a right turn at a stop sign.
Police light up the emergency lights, and the driver immediately turns on the right turn signal and pulls over and comes to a complete stop.
The Mundelien police officer walks to the vehicle and greetings are friendly between the officer and the occupants of the vehicle. The officer asks some questions, including whether the driver was drinking. A female voice replies no, and a male voice in a friendly and joking manner admits that he was drinking. The officer tells the driver he smells a strong odor of alcohol coming from he car, and that he has to check her to make sure she is not impaired.
The female driver complies and appears to be walking normally. A standard field sobriety test begins, and the driver appears to be passing the test. When the officer announces a one-legged test is about to begin, the driver states that she is uncoordinated normally, but now it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. The officers takes a moment to clarify that comment, asking what she means by normally — as if she is intoxicated, and normal would be ‘not intoxicated’.
The driver passes the one-legged test and completes a 9-step heel-to-toe walking test with a 180-degree turn and 9-step heel-to-toe return to the starting position. After the heel-to-toe test is successfully completed and 8 minutes and 40 seconds have elapsed in the video, the male passenger starts to get out of the car. He is ordered by the officer to get back in the car. The passenger does not cooperate with the order. A backup officer also orders the passenger to get back in the car. The passenger still does not comply with the police order. After the passenger is warned by the backup officer that he will be tasered (and it appears the taser is already drawn and aimed) the passenger gets back in the passenger seat, but not all of the way. The female driver is heard saying, “Close the door, it’s fine!” The female driver also advises the officer administering her test that the passenger will have a heart attack. A discussion continues with the passenger and the testing officer tells the driver that she is under arrest because he can’t deal with two people out of the car, right now. The driver is handcuffed and placed in the back of the squad car in disbelief. The driver is informed that her passenger is getting arrested for obstructing his investigation. The driver tells the officer that her passenger is back in the car, which he replies, “No he’s not because he’s not listening.” The video show that the passenger is back in the car with the passenger door closed. The officer then gives commands to the driver to sit (in the squad car). The video shows the testing officer walk over to the passenger side of the Kotlinski’s vehicle, open the door and order the passenger out of the vehicle. He orders the man to “step out” and then attempts to pull him out. He then tasers the passenger, and the passenger gets out of the car and is pulled out of the car, but continues to struggle.
At about 11 minutes into the recording while the officers are struggling with the passenger on the ground, the passenger states he has a heart condition, The officers get him handcuffed, and about 12 minutes into the video, the man asks to call 9-1-1. When the passenger says, “my heart!” an ambulance is immediately requested. The police then order him to get up, which is not standard procedure, because if the case is being treated as a heart condition, no extra demand should be placed on the heart.
The audio is not functioning for a period of about two minutes.
“You’re harassing my wife because she’s f#*!ng uncoordinated?” is heard when the audio comes back on. My question was, is this stupid test that you’re giving to prove someone’s uncoordinated, or they’re drunk.
While Jean Kotlinski is alone in the police car, she is heard saying, “Why did he get out of the f#*!ng car.”
Steven Kotlinski was then arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated battery; he was later found not guilty during a jury trial.
Jean Kotlinski was handcuffed in the back of a squad car during the traffic stop, but tests showed her blood alcohol level was 0.00, according to the lawsuit. She was released from handcuffs at about the 21-minute point in the recording.
The lawsuit claims used of excessive force, illegal seizure, false arrest, failure to intervene, malicious prosecution and battery.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages against both officers and the village as well as punitive damages, attorney fees and any additional relief.
The police are responsible for maintaining safety at the traffic stop. An intoxicated passenger getting out of the car, could very easily run into traffic and get hit by a car or escalate the conflict during the DUI investigation.
Police are under excessive, time-consuming demands to conduct DUI arrests by the book, and DUI defense attorneys can turn any small detail into an item that can ruin a conviction of a driver that should have been convicted of driving while intoxicated. They also face unreasonable, dangerous people and dangerous situations every day. For that reason, police want total control of the scene. An officer can become overwhelmed by bureaucracy and lose common sense if the system doesn’t help the officers and train them properly to identify when they are dealing with reasonable people. Steve Kotlinski admitted he was drinking alcohol, and he appears to be acting foolishly and uncooperative, but he’s friendly at the beginning of the traffic stop. With reasonable assurance of the backup officer, Steve Kotlinsky probably wouldn’t even have had the urge to get out of his vehicle.
Unfortunately, some common sense appears to be lost with the arresting officers. Anyone who hasn’t been arrested before is going to be nervous about going through a field sobriety test — even if they haven’t been drinking. The testing officer doesn’t exhibit any personality that would alleviate her fears, and a reasonable observer can tell she is not intoxicated from the beginning of the test. Additionally, the driving behavior in the video before the traffic stop showed no signs of a driver being intoxicated. The driver comes to a complete stop, doesn’t weave, doesn’t take a wide turn, uses her turn signal for the turn, uses her turn signal for the traffic stop, and stops smoothly.
Additional training of the police would help the police maintain common sense while faced with a legal system, judicial system and political system that bogs them down with details. Training would help them identify that the driver is not intoxicated early in the test, even though the officer might have to remain objective and complete the sobriety test. Additional training would also help police identify that an apparently intoxicated husband is going to be riled up if the husband knows his wife is sober, and perceives she is being treated unjustly. The potential for an intoxicated person to convert from a ‘friendly drunk’ to an outraged offender can be a small margin that depends on the situation, police courtesy and police behavior.
Notice that in this case, people that perceive themselves as normal Americans drop the f-bomb a lot.