Drunk Driving on a Zamboni

Drinking on the job is never a good thing, but it is a bit more obvious when you are in charge of cleaning the ice with a Zamboni machine at a high school hockey game. Similar to a typical DUI case, the police were summoned after people noticed erratic driving of the vehicle. While driving erratically on the road means that the vehicle is swerving over the painted lines on the road and almost striking objects, I am not exactly sure what constitutes erratic driving in an ice rink. After the police arrived and conducted their investigation, the man was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.

Centre County DUI Cases

In Centre County, and most counties in Central Pennsylvania, a person who is arrested for suspicion of driving drunk is not immediately charged. Instead, the person is transported to a local hospital for a blood draw. A person suspected of drunk driving cannot be forced to submit to a blood draw, but a refusal of the blood draw results in an administrative suspension of Pennsylvania driving privileges and often still results in the filing of DUI charges. If the suspect submitted to the blood draw, the blood is often sent to the Pennsylvania State Police lab in Harrisburg for testing. The lab then mails the blood alcohol test results to the officer, and the officer files Driving Under  the Influence charges under 75 Pa.C.S.A. §3802 with the local district judge. The judge mails the Police Criminal Complaint and Writ of Summons to the suspect, and the suspect is scheduled to appear for a Preliminary Hearing.

Many people who are arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence are surprised that they are released from police custody and not given any paperwork or any real instructions. Some people wishfully think that they avoided the drunk driving charges only to receive the charge approximately a month or so into the future.

Is Drunk Zamboni Driving a Crime in Pennsylvania?

The answer to this question is that it depends upon the location of the driving. A Zamboni is clearly a “motor vehicle” under Pennsylvania law and thereby subject to Pennsylvania Vehicle Code laws. Even a bicycle is a “vehicle” under Pennsylvania law, which means that a person can get a DUI while riding a bike. However, the Vehicle Code only applies to highways and trafficways. Many people mistakenly believe that you cannot be charged with a DUI if you are driving or riding on private property. The private versus public property distinction does not make a difference. The issue is one of accessibility. The term “trafficway” is defined in section 102 of the Vehicle Code as the “entire width between property lines or other boundary lines of every way or place of which any part is open to the public for purposes of vehicular travel as a matter of right or custom.” The definition of trafficway is very broad and includes areas that can be on private property, such as roads through housing developments, parking lots of restaurants and stores, and parking garages.

While the definition of a trafficway is very broad, I do not believe that an ice rink inside a building could be considered as “open to the public for purpose of vehicular travel.” While the man was drunk and his actions may have endangered the safety of people at the event, the man could not be charged with DUI if this had happened in Pennsylvania. At a minimum, he probably would be charged with a summary offense of Public Drunkenness because it could be alleged that he was intoxicated to the extent that he caused a safety hazard or public inconvenience. Even if the man were not charged with drunk driving, I suspect that his days of driving the Zamboni are over as he was most assuredly fired from his job.