Kare 11 News reports today that an unidentified employee at Hayes Park Arena in Apple Valley was arrested for alleged impaired operation of a Zamboni. The story indicates that the Zamboni operator allegedly was swerving and hit the boards multiple times while clearing the ice. The employee submitted to a blood test and is awaiting the results. Ordinarily, it takes scientists at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension 3 to 5 weeks to analyze and report the alcohol concentration of a blood sample.
This case presents a unique issue whether a Zamboni is a "motor vehicle" under Minnesota's DWI laws. Minnesota Statutes Chapter 169 defines “motor vehicle,” in relevant part, as “every vehicle which is self-propelled,” excluding “an electric personal assistive mobility device.” Minn. Stat. § 169.011, subd. 42. “Driver” is defined as “every person who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle.” Minn. Stat. § 169.011, subd. 24. “Vehicle” is defined, in relevant part, as “every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway.” Minn. Stat. § 169.011, subd. 92.
A Zamboni clearly is "motorized," but the real question is whether it is a "vehicle" under Minnesota law. A Zamboni is not intended to be driven upon a highway and does not require license plates. I do not believe that Minnesota's appellate courts have addressed this issue.
In 2011, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed a man's DWI conviction for operating a mobility scooter upon the sidewalk with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The court ruled that an intoxicated, physically disabled individual using a motorized device as a substitute for walking is not driving, operating, or in physical control of a motor vehicle for purposes of Minn. Stat. § 169A.20, subd. 1.
If anyone thinks that the police and prosecutors aren't zealous in pursuing DWI convictions, consider the cases of a Zamboni driver and mobility scooter operator. Next, they will be going after people operating riding lawn mowers. Given the State's budget woes, I'm not sure the State should be wasting its resources on these cases.