Burlington's deputy police chief took a plea deal Wednesday, and then announced his retirement. The plea gets Andi Higbee off the hook for drunk driving, but the resolution of the case also ends his 24-year career with the BPD.
Higbee walked out of the Franklin County courthouse Wednesday morning after a deal with the prosecutor that reduced his DUI charge to negligent operation of a vehicle.
"As I mentioned it court, I'm fond of what Brooks did for me and the outcome this morning, very pleased," Higbee said.
Higbee's driver'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.
Higbee's attorney, Brooks McArthur, says the plea deal was struck after chemists from both sides determined that Higbee's blood alcohol level was under the legal limit at the time of the stop.
"Once they had an understanding of what the testimony would've been, they realized that it wasn't as strong a case," McArthur said.
Franklin County State's Attorney Jim Hughes says he agreed to drop the DUI charge because of the evidence and would have done the same for any driver, not just a veteran police officer.
"I think it's a fair outcome for both the state and Mr. Higbee based on the facts of what he did," Hughes said.
In disputing the charge, Higbee's lawyer had suggested there was no probable cause for the traffic stop and that the trooper was motivated by state police quota set for the special DUI patrol. State police deny the existence of a quota, and Hughes says Higbee's plea is vindication for the trooper.
"I do think by pleading to this, it demonstrates that Vermont State Police and Trooper Hall didn't do anything improper that evening, that there were no improper incentives in place, no improper bounty systems," Deputy Franklin County Prosecutor Heather Brochu said.
The plea deal calls for a $500 fine. Higbee is due back in court next April for sentencing. In the meantime, he will enroll in alcohol counseling.
"Sometimes we have to enter into pleas to get to this outcome but in essence, it's very favorable to him," McArthur said.
Higbee was suspended from his law enforcement duties after his DUI arrest. He later returned to work on desk duty. After the court hearing, Higbee declined to talk about his job status. But just hours later, Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling announced that Higbee is retiring from the force. Schirling praised Higbee for his service over more than 24 years with the BPD. Higbee has been eligible to collect pension benefits since passing the 20-year mark on the force.
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