Vehicular homicide case sees attorney try to suppress test

Becky Campbell • Jun 21, 2012 at 10:19 PM

A Washington County man whose blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit when he caused a wreck that killed a woman and injured three others more than two years ago appeared in a Washington County courtroom Thursday.

Jeffrey Lyons, 53, who lived on Bayless Road when the crash occurred in July 2010, only appeared briefly before Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood. His attorney, Mark Slagle, will argue a lengthy motion later this year and ask the judge to suppress the blood test showing Lyons’ level of intoxication.

Lyons was indicted in January on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of reckless aggravated assault and felony reckless endangerment.

The crash happened July 31, 2010, around 10:30 p.m. near the intersection of Fordtown Road and Dark Hollow Road. According to court documents, Lyons was driving a Ford F-250 on Fordtown Road when he crossed the center line and struck the driver’s side of an oncoming Dodge Caravan.

Sharon Perkins, 56, a passenger in that van, was killed. The driver, Jack Perkins III, 27, and two other passengers, 53-year-old Jack Perkins Jr. and an 18-month-old girl, were injured.

Lyons also suffered serious injuries, and according to a motion his attorney filed, he was unconscious when paramedics arrived on the scene. On the way to the hospital, Lyons remained unconscious and unresponsive. Emergency personnel only found a faint pulse and had to put in a breathing tube to help Lyons breathe.

The fact Lyons was unconscious is a key element to Slagle’s position the blood sample taken and later tested for alcohol or drugs at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab was retrieved illegally because Lyons was unable to refuse the test or submit voluntarily.

According to court records, Lyons’ blood-alcohol content was .25 more than three hours after the fatal crash. The legal definition of intoxication is a .08 content.

Slagle said the removal of Lyons’ blood for a alcohol and drug test is a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure.

Slagle also states in his motion there was no search warrant to make the blood draw legal. In that motion, Slagle wrote that such “searches are unreasonable ... and subject to a limited number of well-defined exceptions.”

Tennessee case law, however, allows blood to be taken from an unconscious person and the test results admitted as evidence if the state meets four criteria.

One of those four stipulations is that the state needed the blood test to establish probable cause to believe the defendant had committed aggravated assault or vehicular homicide while intoxicated.

Still, the defense contends the state cannot use the evidence without Lyons’ consent. Slagle also wants Blackwood to require the state to meet the other three requirements as well.

Those elements are the state must prove “that exigent circumstances exist to forgo the warrant’s requirements; the test selected by the officer is reasonable and competent for determining blood alcohol; and the test is performed in a reasonable manner.”

Lyons is free on bond and will be back in court in August.

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