It would seem that, at least for once, it may have been better to be arrested for drunken driving here in New Jersey than in another state. Now, we say this mostly with tongue firmly in check, since the defendant in a recent out-of-state drunken driving case happens to be a Zamboni driver who was working the ice for a peewee hockey game when he was picked up for DWI.
For this particular individual, maybe he should have been grooming a hockey arena in the Garden State instead of for the Apple Valley Parks and Rec Department in Minnesota. The reason? New Jersey has already set a “precedent” in cases pertaining to driving a Zamboni under the influence of alcohol (would that be “DZUI”?).
Seriously, as New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, we know it’s no joke when a motorist receives a summons for driving while intoxicated, operating a vehicle under the influence of prescription drugs (drug DUI), or refusing to take a breathalyzer test. All of these offenses carry with them strict penalties for the accused if a conviction is secured against a defendant. The important thing to understand is that when a driver is taken into custody and charged with impaired driving, the consequences, legal or otherwise, could be severe and long-lasting.
But back to the case of the drunk Zamboni driver in Apple Valley. According to news reports, 34-year-old Joel Bruss was arrested by local police after he allegedly was found to be operating his Zamboni ice grooming machine while legally drunk. Based on news articles, both parents and other fans of the peewee hockey league observed Parents and fans watched Bruss apparently driving the vehicle in a haphazard manner and allegedly smashing into the outer edges of the rink on more than on occasion.
A local TV news station was told by one spectator that the suspected drunken Zamboni driver had turned off the water for numerous laps around the ice; that witness also claimed that the driver couldn’t maintain a straight line. What got most people’s attention was the time it took for the ice grooming to be completed; according to reports, the normally 10-minute job took about three times that.
While dozens of witnesses of fans claimed that Bruss was driving much below par compared to what is normally expected of the Zamboni, even the peewee coaches noted the strange activity, stating to police that the driver was having trouble maneuvering the machine.
After one or more people apparently contacted the local police department, officers arrived on the scene. The patrolmen as well noticed that Bruss was visibly having trouble competing the job at hand. Once off the ice, police approached the suspect and reportedly detected the odor of alcohol on the man’s breath. They took Bruss into custody, arresting him apparently for driving a vehicle while intoxicated.
As stated previously, this isn’t the first time that a Zamboni operator has been found to be drunk on the ice. Up in Canada, a female Zamboni driver was charged with DWI after she was observed operating her Zamboni in an erratic fashion back in 2008. In that particular instance, parents complained to an off-duty policeman at the rink, who also saw the driver repeatedly crash up against the boards. Once off the ice, police took the driver into custody and found a flask filled with vodka in the woman’s pants pocket.
Here in the Garden State, that Zamboni driver who was previously accused of operating his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol did not have to face any of New Jersey’s stiff DWI penalties because the judge in the case threw out the charges against the defendant. In doing so, the judge stated that a Zamboni is not technically a motor vehicle under New Jersey law because it can’t be driven on public roads and it doesn’t carry passengers.
As for that unlucky Minnesotan, he apparently already had three previous drunken driving charges to his name. This latest incident didn’t help in any regard either, as he was suspended from his part-time position at the ice arena.
Minnesota Zamboni driver allegedly drunk while cleaning ice, Yahoo.com, February 3, 2012