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Judge rejects argument state's implied consent law is unconstitutional

A court gavel
A court gavel

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The attorney for a former ELCA Lutheran bishop says Wisconsin's implied consent law is unconstitutional -- but a judge in Madison doesn't buy it. 

Prosecutors said Bruce Burnside was drunk when he struck and killed a jogger, Maureen Mengelt, after leaving a freeway exit in Sun Prairie on April 7th. 

Attorney John Hyland said Burnside gave his consent to have his blood drawn for an alcohol test -- but the attorney said the process is unconstitutional, because drivers are warned they could lose their licenses if they don't take the test. 

Hyland says it amounts to coercion, since he provided evidence under the threat of a penalty. 

Dane County Circuit Judge Nicholas McNamara rejected the argument, saying that driving is a privilege, not a right -- and the state can impose reasonable restrictions. 

A trial date of March 24th is set for Burnside on five charges, including negligent and drunken homicide. Prosecutors said the driver's blood alcohol level was 0.128, or over one-and-a-half times the legal limit. 

The former bishop claimed he was not under the influence at all, and was hurrying to a church service at the time. 

The victim, Mengelt, was training for a 20 mile run when she was hit. 

Burnside was in his final months as the ELCA bishop for about 110,000 Lutherans in south central Wisconsin. He's no longer employed by the church.

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