Miami-Dade police officer convicted of drunk driving after he was discovered passed out in his patrol car is getting a new trial.
A panel of judges on Thursday reversed the conviction for Fernando Villa, saying prosecutors made improper arguments during the officer’s trial in June 2014.
Villa is no stranger to controversy. He was part of the department’s Special Response Team that shot and killed four suspected armed robbers, including a police confidential informant, during a botched sting in June 2011.
After the shooting, Villa was transferred to patrol duties in the West Kendall Hammocks district. Six months later, in December 2011, Villa — wearing shorts and a T-shirt — was found passed out inside his patrol car at a West Kendall intersection.
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At his trial, jurors heard that Villa twice refused to take an alcohol breath test and that he showed signs of impairment, including smelling like alcohol.
Jurors deliberated 30 minutes in convicting Villa. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, which he has yet to serve as he appealed.
A panel of three Miami-Dade judges ruled that prosecutors erred in asking a police witness whether Villa gave an excuse in refusing the Breathalyzer test. The question was unfairly “shifting the burden” to Villa to present a defense, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mavel Ruiz wrote in the opinion.
Prosecutors also erred in repeatedly pointing to a lack of medical records in evidence that might explain Villa’s condition that day, the judges ruled.