A jury trial has been set for March 9 in the case of a man charged with vehicular manslaughter. The charge stems from an October 2018 car accident in which a passenger in the man’s vehicle died.
Andy Lee Ahrens, 21, of Maquoketa, is charged with homicide by vehicle, operating under the influence. The class B felony is defined as “unintentionally causing the death of another by operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of controlled substances,” according to Iowa Code.
Ahrens pleaded not guilty in the case. He initially had demanded his right to a speedy trial but later waived that right, according to court documents filed Oct. 18.
Susan Hess of Hammer Law Firm P.L.C., which is defending Ahrens, on Nov. 8 filed a motion to suppress evidence — specifically test results derived from a sample of Ahrens’ blood.
On the day of the accident (Oct. 7, 2018), the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department obtained a search warrant to obtain a sample of Ahrens’ blood. The sample was sent to the Department of Criminal Investigation crime lab in Ankeny for testing. The toxicology reports show Ahrens’ blood alcohol content was 0.213 at the time of the accident and that he had amphetamines in his system. Iowa’s blood alcohol limit for motor vehicle operators is .08.
The defense claims the search warrant issued in the case did not show probable cause to obtain a sample of Ahrens’ blood, which was taken while he was hospitalized with head and arm wounds following the accident, according to court documents. Ahrens’ defense asserts that he did not consent to having blood drawn, thereby any blood test results should not be allowed into evidence.
The homicide by vehicle charge stems from an accident at 12:23 p.m. Oct. 7, 2018, about 4 miles south of Bellevue on Highway 52.
Ahrens and a passenger, Alex Robert Behr, 20, of Sabula, were traveling north on Highway 52 when the Jeep Cherokee Ahrens was driving left the road “for reasons unknown,” according to the accident report completed by the Iowa State Patrol. The vehicle struck a tree head-on and started burning.
Behr was partially ejected through the front windshield and died at the scene.
At the accident site, Ahrens admitted to law enforcement that he lost control of the vehicle, went into the ditch, and was drinking before driving, according to the search warrant.
Ahrens consented to a breath test at 12:46 p.m. Oct. 7; that sample tested at 0.249, according to the accident report and search warrant.
District Court Judge Mark D. Cleve on Aug. 30 issued a warrant for Ahrens’ arrest. Ahrens turned himself in Sept. 19. He was released after posting $10,000 cash or bond.
Under Iowa law, people who plead guilty or are found guilty of a class B felony could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, may have their license revoked for six years, may have to satisfactorily complete a drinking drivers course, and may have to submit to a substance abuse evaluation and subsequent treatment or rehabilitation services.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office will prosecute the case after Jackson County Attorney Sara Davenport requested that she be recused “due to a conflict of interest,” according to court documents.