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Former School Bus Driver Pleads Guilty To DUI

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Betty Burden

Betty Burden, a former Mount Prospect school bus driver, has pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI, admitting she was drunk while driving 45 students home on March 9, 2010. (Mount Prospect Police booking photo)

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Updated 1/5/11 1:37 p.m.

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. (CBS) – A former Mount Prospect school bus driver pleaded guilty on Wednesday to driving drunk when she took students home from school last spring.

During a hearing at the Rolling Meadows courthouse, Betty Burden, 55, admitted that she was drunk when she drove a Mount Prospect school bus carrying about 45 Lions Park Elementary School students to their homes on March 9, 2010.

Burden failed a field sobriety test and blew a .226 on a Brethalyzer test, nearly three times the legal limit of .08 for drunk driving.

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She admitted she had been drinking vodka and orange juice before driving the kids home, police said.

Cook County prosecutors also obtained videotape from a squad-car camera that showed how Burden was driving before police pulled her over. The video also showed Burden’s field-sobriety test.

Burden has been fired by School District 57. Her supervisor, who had checked on Burden after being told she might be driving drunk, also was fired for failing to immediately call police.

Last fall Burden unsuccessfully tried to have the DUI charges dismissed, a ruling that ultimately led to her guilty plea Wednesday.

“Is this what you want to do today, enter a plea of guilty?” Cook County Judge John Scotillo asked Burden.

“Yes,” she replied softly.

Burden, who remains free on bond, declined to comment after the hearing.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 26, when Burden could be sentenced to one to three years in prison or be given probation.

Defense attorney Ernest Blomquist said he will ask for probation, noting that she had never been arrested previously and has an outstanding driving record.

“Her background is exemplary. She has an incredible employment history,” Blomquist said.

Prosecutor Maria McCarthy declined to say whether she would seek a prison term.

(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)

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