Captured on police video slurring his speech, failing field sobriety tests, and repeatedly refusing to take a breathalyzer test, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz was acquitted Wednesday of driving under the influence. Despite the fact that Diaz was speeding over twice the legal limit, his breath reeked of alcohol, and had been driving without his license on him, a jury quickly decided to find the Commissioner not guilty.
Former Mayor of Sweetwater and current Miami-Dade County Commissioner, Diaz was arrested for DUI after failing numerous field sobriety tests and nearly dropping his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on an officer immediately after being pulled over on September 19, 2015. Forgetting to put his kickstand down, Diaz could barely hold his bike steady and accidentally burned his leg on the tailpipe before two officers had to hold the vehicle steady for him.
Pulled over for driving 74 mph in a 30 mph zone, Diaz admitted to having two drinks at a motorcycle event earlier that day. Police dash cam and body cam videos recorded Diaz slurring his speech with bloodshot eyes while incessantly interrupting the cops.
“All I’m trying to do is have a good time down here,” Diaz told the officers.
“But the problem is with you drinking and driving that’s… You know what I mean?” the officer asked Diaz. “We just had a woman killed here three nights ago. Mr. Diaz, Mr. Diaz, listen to me. Mr. Diaz, you couldn’t even put the kickstand down on your motorcycle without it falling over. There’s a very strong odor of alcohol coming off of your breath. You have no business riding this motorcycle this evening.”
Although Diaz did not have his driver’s license on him, he repeatedly told the officers that he is the County Commissioner and is a friend of the sheriff. After failing several field sobriety tests, continuously losing his balance, and refusing to take a breathalyzer test, Diaz was cuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car.
While being taken into custody, Diaz told an officer, “Do you what you gotta do. My career is ended. It’s over. Whatever.”
Spending the night at the Monroe County Detention Center, Diaz was released the next day on a $1,000 bond. Charged with DUI, Diaz refused to step down from public office and plead not guilty despite the fact that he was clearly slurring his speech while failing sobriety tests on video.
During Diaz’s trial, two of his friends testified that they only saw him have two drinks at the motorcycle charity event earlier that day. Defense lawyer Christopher Lyons argued that Diaz had failed the sobriety tests due to his client’s excessive weight and burning his leg on the tailpipe.
Although Lyons failed to explain Diaz’s slurred speech, faulty memory, and refusal to take a breathalyzer test if he only had two drinks prior to his arrest, the jury shortly deliberated for a few hours before acquitting the Commissioner.
Elected Mayor of Sweetwater in May 1999, Diaz was first elected as Commissioner in September 2002 and re-elected to a fourth term in 2014. He also served as the Vice-Chairman of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners from 2009-2010.