In 2010, one day after his arrest for driving under the influence, Phillip Pierce requested a hearing to fight his driver’s license revocation. This common request, and the 20 month delay for the hearing to take place, led to a legal fight all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. On May 6, 2014, the court held the state’s delay violated Pierce’s right to a speedy trial.
To argue its case, the state required testimony from one of the arresting officers. It argued the delay was necessary because the officer was called to active military duty overseas, making him unavailable. In examining the evidence, the Supreme Court disagreed. It held the state had the opportunity to hold the hearing any time during the eight months after Pierce initially challenged the license revocation. For the first five months of that time, the officer was completely available to testify. For the remaining three months, the officer indicated he could have been available on an emergency basis. The court also did not agree with the availability argument in general, since the state initially blamed the delay on budget cuts and personnel problems.
Regardless of the reasoning, the court held the delay was solely due to the state’s actions, and found it violated Pierce’s right to a speedy trial. The court also rejected the state’s argument Pierce was not harmed, since he was still able to drive. Pierce experienced some detriment when the status of his license remained unresolved during the time until the hearing. The full case is Pierce v. Dept. of Public Safety, 2014 OK 37.