Man convicted for drunk driving on riding lawn mower

CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac man was found guilty of drunk driving at a trial that took place Wednesday.

Steven Bakeman, 32, was found guilty of his third drunk driving offense after being stopped by Cass County Sheriff’s deputies in June while riding a lawn mower down Cass County road immediately after a neighborhood dispute. A third offense of drunk driving carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

At the time of his arrest, Bakeman’s blood alcohol level registered at .28 at the time of the stop. The legal limit in Michigan is .08.

“Mixing booze, a motor vehicle and a roadway is never a good idea. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, riding lawn mowers, golf carts, it doesn’t matter. Someone can get hurt or killed,” said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. “There were kids in the area. It was dark. The mower lights were not on. Not a good idea.”

In a trial that began on Tuesday morning and concluded that same afternoon, Cass County Deputies Taryn Adams and Joshua Zielke testified that on June 11, 2017, they initially responded to an assault complaint but ended up making a drunk driving arrest.

Testimony revealed that Bakeman was drinking so heavily that children in the area sought help from a neighbor.

As deputies responded to the 911 call, they found the defendant driving his John Deere lawn mower down Middle Crossing Road in Silver Creek Township, a short distance from the location of the 911 call.

The deputies testified from the stand that the lawn mower had no lights and was travelling down a darkened road, a clear hazard to other vehicles. Upon being stopped, Bakeman stated that he was looking for his children to give them a ride home.

He also admitted to drinking four 24-ounce “Natty Ice” beers and multiple liquor shots.

Testimony elicited during trial from Assistant Prosecutor Karl Boersma indicated that the defendant was unable to complete the roadside field sobriety tests.

Charging documents also indicate that the defendant has been convicted in St. Joseph Michigan on Jan. 9, 2008, of operating while intoxicated and on Dec. 12, 2005, of operating while impaired.

Bakeman was arrested and transported to the Cass County Jail where he submitted to two breathalyzer tests, registering blood alcohol contents of .27 and .28,  more than three times the state’s legal limit.

At the conclusion of the trial, Cass County Circuit Judge Mark Herman instructed the jurors that a riding lawn mower meets Michigan’s definition of a motor vehicle.

The jury deliberated for approximately 10 minutes before returning a unanimous guilty verdict.

Bakeman will be sentenced by Judge Herman on April 13.

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