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A man in North Dakota recently gained national notoriety after being arrested for operating a Zamboni while under the influence of alcohol during a high school girl’s hockey game. While the teams were on a break between periods, fans noticed the driver of the ice resurfacing vehicle (commonly known as a “Zamboni”) was weaving erratically on the ice and was bumping into the boards. The police were summoned and the man was subsequently arrested for and charged with a DUI offense.
While incidents like this tend to make headlines, it is always important to remember that a driver can be charged with DUI or a related offense for operating a wide variety of motor vehicles, not only cars, trucks and motorcycles.
Many drivers may think that DUIs can only occur in a vehicle while on the road, however this is simply not the case. California law broadly defines where a DUI offense can occur, and the fact that a driver is in a private area, such as fenced-off storage facility or even an indoor hockey arena would not shield that driver from being charged with driving under the influence.
As a basic rule, as long as the vehicle involved runs on a combustion engine or electric motor the driver could be criminally liable for a DUI offense. This would include traditional transportation vehicles such as cars, trucks, motorcycles and scooters as well as non-traditional recreation or work vehicles like snowmobiles, construction or farm equipment and even Zambonis.
Drivers who have commercial licenses should be very cautious about committing DUI offenses, as the California Department of Motor Vehicles imposes longer suspensions for this class of drivers. Those with commercial vehicles can have their commercial driving privileges suspended for a full year as the result of a DUI offense. A second DUI offense would result in a lifetime revocation of commercial driving privileges. For those who need a commercial license for their work, this penalty can be devastating.
Even though the vehicle involved may be unusual, the case would proceed just as any other DUI charge would. An officer would have to have probable or reasonable cause in order to stop the vehicle. In the case of the Zamboni driver, this would be the erratic operation of the vehicle that prompted concerned parents to summon the police.
Law enforcement must also have reasonable or probable cause to believe that the operator of the vehicle is under the influence of drugs or alcohol (or both) before the driver can be arrested for a DUI offense. Just as with automobile drivers, the driver of a nontraditional vehicle will be questioned about prior alcohol consumption. He or she will also be asked to complete a series of physical field sobriety tests that are designed to test the driver’s dexterity, balance and ability to follow instructions. The officer may also request that the operator of the vehicle provide a breath sample for testing on the officer’s portable Preliminary Alcohol Sensor (“PAS”) device. While not 100% reliable, this device will provide enough probable cause to justify an arrest if the driver is shown to have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.