The Smoking Gun reports that a 34-year-old arena employee was arrested Monday night in Minnesota for driving while intoxicated. Witnesses reported the man was driving erratically, which responding officers confirmed when they saw him “struggling to maneuver” his vehicle. And as we have seen before — but only once before — the police may arrest you for DWI even if you are driving a Zamboni ice machine at the time.
Whether you can be convicted for this, however, is another story. The question in non-automotive DWI cases is typically whether the conveyance in question qualifies as a “vehicle” or “motor vehicle” under applicable law. I discussed this I think most recently last August, when reporting on the latest case involving a motorized beer cooler. Riding-lawnmower DWIs are really too common to mention anymore, although I will generally make space for motorized beer coolers or especially motorized bar stools. Things like those have generally been held to involve “motor vehicles.” More controversial are cases involving horses, which generally do not have motors but could be considered a “vehicle.”
In the only previous Zamboni DWI case, a New Jersey judge dismissed the charge against that defendant after ruling that a Zamboni is not a “motor vehicle.” He based this on his findings that a Zamboni can’t be used on streets or highways and can’t carry passengers. As I said then, that was great for the defendant (who wasn’t really putting anyone at risk), but was also, quite obviously, wrong. If Zambonis can’t be used on streets, how did these gentlemen manage to take theirs through the Burger King drive-thru lane? The prosecution rests.
Which is not to say that there should be severe penalties (or any penalties) for someone convicted of a DZI (Driving a Zamboni while Intoxicated). If a Zamboni is not actually out on the road, at least, it is hard to imagine that any real risk is posed by a vehicle that doesn’t leave the ice and has a top speed of 3 to 5 mph. Unless I’m wrong about the latter, I’m not buying testimony that a Zamboni driver was “speeding” (the claim in the New Jersey case) or that the Zamboni “careened across the ice” (as the Minnesota witnesses claimed). I’m sorry, but a Zamboni wouldn’t “careen” unless you put rockets on it.
And yes, I would pay a lot to see that. But if you ever do get hold of a rocket-powered Zamboni, all I can say is, “designated driver.”