FARGO, N.D. — A Fargo man who admitted being drunk while operating a Zamboni during a high school hockey game was convicted Tuesday after the judge rejected his lawyer's argument that the ice-resurfacing machine didn't meet the definition of a vehicle under city code.
Steven James Anderson, 27, was sentenced to nine days in jail, with credit for one day served, and ordered a $1,500 fine, chemical dependency evaluation, and participation in the state's 24/7 sobriety program.
He was arrested in January during the girls hockey game in Fargo after witnesses complained he was driving erratically on the ice between periods and crashing into the boards. Police say his blood-alcohol content was nearly four times the legal limit for driving a motor vehicle.
Defense attorney Lindsey Haugen said during the bench trial Tuesday that the law is not clear whether a Zamboni is considered a vehicle, or whether it is illegal to drive the machine on the ice while drunk. He also said witnesses are hazy on whether Anderson drove the Zamboni on a road behind the arena to dump ice or whether that road was accessible to other vehicles.
But Municipal Court Judge Stephen Dawson said state law is written to include vehicles "such as" a Zamboni.
Afterward, Haugen said his research of DUI law found specific vehicles such as tractors, snowmobiles, recreational vehicles and boats, but he found no references to a Zamboni.
"Our purpose was to have someone state with authority that this is a violation of the law," Haugen said.
Anderson said he was drinking at a friend's birthday party until about 3 p.m. on the day of the Jan. 30 game between Fargo Davies and Dickinson. Haugen said his client rode a bicycle to the Southside Arena after the party and had planned to take a cab home. Anderson's blood-alcohol content registered a .314 at 9:30 p.m., police said.
Troy Cody, the Davies principal, testified that he "knew the situation wasn't right" and called police between the first and second periods.
"I saw him crash into the boards rather hard," Cody said.
Anderson, who declined to comment after the hearing, apologized to the court and said he has been sober since the incident.
"I just want to get it over with," he said.
Haugen said his client is a good person who is embarrassed by the episode.
"He wants to move on with his life," the attorney said. "He has made a lot of changes in the last four or five months."