Bishop's lawyer: Implied consent unconstitutional
A Dane County judge has refused to throw out the blood alcohol test of a former bishop charged in a hit-and-run crash that killed a jogger.
Former Lutheran bishop Bruce Burnside is charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and four other counts in the April 7 death of Maureen Mengelt. The 52-year-old Sun Prairie woman was out for an afternoon jog when she was struck.
Burnside's attorney argues that although the reverend gave his consent to have his blood drawn for an alcohol test at Meriter Hospital, the process was unconstitutional because drivers are told they could lose their licenses if they don't comply. Defense attorney John Hyland says that amounts to coercion, according to the State Journal. Consent cannot be given freely and voluntarily if it is obtained under the threat of a penalty, he said.
Dane County Circuit Judge Nicholas McNamara rejected the argument at a hearing Monday and set a trial date of March 24. Judge McNamara said driving is a privilege, not a constitutional right, and that a state can put reasonable restrictions on a person's ability to drive.
The victim's husband, Kevin Mengelt, attended the hearing and said afterward he viewed the defense motion as a delay tactic.
"I wish the case would move faster," he said. "This is painful to my family. We'd like to see justice served."
Burnside is no longer employed by the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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