It's a traffic stop that pits one cop against another. "This is DWI second offense. It will be treated just like anybody else who's in the defendant's chair," said Franklin County State's Attorney Jim Hughes.
This time the defendant is a Burlington police officer charged with his second DUI since 1999.
"Enter a plea of not guilty," said Brooks McArthur, Deputy Chief Andi Higbee's defense lawyer.
On July 21st, Trooper Lucas Hall stopped Higbee for allegedly failing to use his turn signal. Higbee was off-duty, leaving a concert at Sheldon Casino just after midnight.
A cruiser cam recorded their interaction.
Trooper Lucas Hall: "Do you know why I'm stopping you?
Deputy Chief Andi Higbee: Actually, I don't.
What started as a traffic stop turned into a DUI arrest. The trooper says he could smell booze on Higbee's breath and described his eyes as watery and extremely bloodshot.
Trooper Lucas Hall: Andi, how many have you had to drink tonight?
Higbee told the trooper he had five drinks in seven hours. Back at the barracks he blew a .077, and minutes later a .083 -- Just above the .08 legal limit.
But Higbee's lawyer isn't challenging the breathalyzer results. Instead, he's attacking the legitimacy of the stop. "The fact that he was stopped and the fact that this prosecution is proceeding is outrageous from our perspective," McArthur said.
Higbee made a left turn from Casino Road to Route 105 in Sheldon. The question now is exactly how much could the trooper see coming around that bend?
"When this trooper came around the bend, Mr. Higbee was already on 105," McArthur said.
But prosecutors say they're standing behind the sworn statement from one of Vermont's green and gold, explaining the human eye captures more than a mounted dashboard cam ever could. "Trooper Hall has two good eyes and he's looking at things life size," Hughes said. "And the cruiser camera, the Watchguard camera system is flat, two dimensional locked in one spot. And the trooper can turn his head and look all around 360 degrees."
Higbee's stop was part of the state police Sober Summer initiative -- allowing certain barracks extra DUI patrols. In an internal email obtained by Channel 3, state police solicited troopers to work a special detail on the night of the concert -- the night Higbee was stopped. The email instructs troopers to make two vehicle stops per hour.
"It's unacceptable from our perspective that the Vermont State Police would have a quota system that any number of cars are required to be stopped even in the absence of a motor vehicle violation or criminal violation," McArthur said.
Higbee remains on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of this case. His license is also suspended. A civil suspension hearing will likely be scheduled within the next few weeks, but until then Higbee cannot drive.
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