Trooper testifies in Higbee DUI case - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Trooper testifies in Higbee DUI case

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Deputy Chief Andi Higbee is fighting for his right to get back behind the wheel. But judging by the pace of Tuesday's civil suspension hearing he could be waiting at least a few more months.

"It was a lot of details that had to be brought out so I wasn't too surprised that the testimony took longer than the folks had anticipated," explained Jim Hughes, Franklin County State's Attorney.

The Burlington police officer's license was suspended this summer after a Vermont State Trooper pulled him over for an alleged traffic violation as Higbee left a concert at the Sheldon Casino in July.

But Higbee wants the charges dismissed -- on grounds the trooper didn't have probable cause to pull him over -- and his claim that his blood alcohol level was not over the legal limit at the time of the stop. The defense also challenged the trooper's ability to see Higbee's blinker that night.

But Trooper Lucas Hall took the stand -- testifying the fixed cruiser cam only captured about a quarter of what he could see with his own eyes.

"As Mr. Higbee approached Vermont Route 105, I did not observe any turn signal on at all," Hall explained.

Higbee admits to having had five alcoholic drinks that night. And after a sobriety test the off-duty cop was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Trooper Lucas Hall told the court Higbee was not "falling down drunk" but he did notice several indicators of intoxication.

"I had a strong odor of alcohol, multiple open containers that were empty in the back of the vehicle, watery, bloodshot eyes which are all indicators of possible impairment. When he gets out of the vehicle you'll notice that he takes kind of a stutter step." Hall said.

The defense and prosecution still need to call chemists to testify about Higbee's blood alcohol level. His initial breathalyzer test showed Higbee was under the legal limit.  A second showed him just over.

Higbee's lawyers also filed a motion to dismiss the charges claiming a so called state police quota system tainted the case.

Higbee's lawyer David Williams pressed Hall on the quota.

      Williams: You had a goal of no fewer than 1.75 vehicles to stop. Correct?

      Hall: It is a benchmark.

      Williams: Did you meet your benchmark that night before you stopped Deputy Chief Higbee?

      Hall: I do not know.

The court did not set a date for when the hearing will continue but Franklin County State's Attorney Jim Hughes says it most likely will not be picked up until late November or early December. Higbee's license will remain suspended during that time. Hughes also said this case is likely to go to trial -- because the state's offers to settle the case have been rejected by the defense.

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