On July 21, Deputy Chief Andi Higbee with the Burlington Police Department was pulled over by a Vermont State trooper for allegedly failing to use his directional signal. Higbee was off-duty leaving a concert at Sheldon Casino just after midnight.
The entire 37-minute interaction was caught on cruiser cam. What started as a traffic stop, led to a DUI arrest.
Higbee told the trooper he had five drinks between 5:00 p.m. and midnight: a margarita and four, 8-ounce glasses of merlot. The trooper asked Higbee to perform a variety of sobriety tests. And when he refused to submit to a roadside preliminary breath test, the trooper arrested him on suspicion of DUI.
"Given how well he performed on the sobriety exercises, the trooper should have never requested that he submit to the preliminary breath tests and should have allowed Andi to get back in the car," said Brooks McArthur, Higbee's lawyer.
Back at the barracks an hour after the stop, Higbee submitted to two breath tests. He blew a 0.077 on his first try-- just under the legal limit of 0.08 and 0.083 the second time.
But McArthur says it's what happened before the trooper even approached the car that casts doubt on the entire stop.
"When the officer turned around the corner Mr. Higbee was already on 105. So, not only do we believe it's a bad stop, it's not possible that he could have seen a left directional light or off," McArthur said.
McArthur says he's releasing the video now because he wants the public to decide for themselves, rather than waiting until Higbee's first court appearance, especially because his client is a public official.
"In my opinion the mistake was ever stopping Andi Higbee," McArthur said.
Franklin County State's Attorney Jim Hughes is slated to prosecute the case. He declined to comment on camera, but told WCAX News he's watched the video several times and plans to proceed with the arraignment Monday.
Reporter Jennifer Reading: Is this a defense strategy to get the state's attorney or state police to drop the charges?
Brooks McArthur: No, I have great respect for Jim Hughes. I believe Jim Hughes has reviewed this video and I hope that Jim sees it the same way I do.
Vermont State Police also declined to speak to us, but issued this statement: "Regarding the arrest of Andi Higbee for DUI, this case has been sent to the Franklin County State's Attorney's office; therefore comments or questions about this case should be referred to State's Attorney Jim Hughes. Further discussion about this arrest by the Vermont State Police would be inappropriate and potentially undermine the court process."
This Higbee's second DUI stop-- the first was back in 1999.
Trooper Lucas Hall is still on active duty and state police are standing behind the stop.
Andi Higbee will be arraigned Monday afternoon at the Franklin County Court house in St. Albans. State Attorney Hughes says he will likely address the media then.
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