On Appeal, the Circuit Court in and for Miami-Dade County reverses DUI conviction of former Miami-Dade Police Officer and remands a re-trial.
MIAMI – Dec. 31, 2015 — An appellate panel of three judges in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida reversed the Driving Under the Influence conviction of former Miami-Dade police officer, Fernando Villa, and remanded for retrial, finding that prosecutors made improper arguments during Villa’s trial in June 2014. Diaz Reus attorney Fausto Sanchez (pictured above) presented the successful oral argument for Mr. Villa’s appeal on Oct. 8, 2015.
At the center of the appeal was the Fifth Amendment guarantee that an accused has the right to remain silent and not be forced to present evidence at his criminal trial. Judge Ruiz, writing for the panel in its Dec. 8, 2015 opinion, stated, “Because we find merit in the defense’s arguments that the State shifted the burden and improperly commented on the Defendant’s pre-arrest silence, we reverse.”
Mr. Villa did not testify at trial, nor did his trial attorney present evidence or witnesses. And, although his attorney questioned witnesses about his medical condition, the defense never committed to presenting medical records to explain Mr. Villa’s condition on the date of his arrest. Yet, certain questions by the State at trial sought to draw the jury’s attention to the lack of evidence presented by Mr. Villa’s defense to justify his refusal to submit to testing.
“The Court’s decision speaks volumes. It is the burden of the prosecution, and only the prosecution, to present evidence and prove its case,” says Sanchez. “The prosecutors asked questions of one of their witnesses that implied to the jury that Mr. Villa had an obligation to provide medical records to prove up his defense. That implication was abjectly improper and as a result, the conviction that followed required reversal.”