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Man gets fifth DWI despite four prior convictions

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BATON ROUGE - Morris Bernard has experience getting arrested for driving while intoxicated. The Baton Rouge man was arrested for a fifth time over the weekend, sparking outrage among those demanding safer roads.

Bernard caused a crash involving four vehicles Saturday night at the intersection of McClelland and Hollywood in Baton Rouge. When investigators arrived, they found Bernard still in his car with a cold beer and MOJO cigarettes.

Bernard was hauled off to jail.

His problematic history of arrests and convictions began in October of 2006. He pleaded guilty in December of 2008. Despite that conviction, two months later he was at it again. He got arrested in Iberville Parish in February 2009. He pleaded guilty the following year in March of 2010. Fast-forward six years and his dry spell appeared to be in check. But, in February of 2016, Bernard got popped for two DWI's in the same month. Once on February 7, 2016 and again 21 days later on February 28, 2016. He pleaded guilty to both DWI's in January of 2017.

Despite having four convictions on his record, Bernard was back behind the wheel Saturday when he got a fifth DWI arrest.

"As units arrived, he was still sitting inside of his vehicle," Don Coppola with Baton Rouge Police said. "They were able to detect signs of impairment."

Asheba Brown with Mothers Against Drunk Driving says his behavior put lives at risk.

"With him having a fifth DWI, he needs to be convicted to the fullest extent of the law so he can be placed behind bars," Brown said. "He doesn't need any probation. He needs to be convicted of the DWI, so he can go to jail and save his life and everyone else's life in Louisiana especially in Baton Rouge."

Bernard's arrest reignites the need for a DWI database. The WBRZ Investigative Unit has found the state of Louisiana has no database that tracks an offender's arrest through conviction statewide. Instead, prosecutors are left having to chase down the conviction histories of offenders before decisions can be made.

In Bernard's case, it took the Investigative Unit hours talking to employees at various clerks of court offices to track down all of the information. The clerks said another problem is most of their systems don't link to each other. That means Baton Rouge City Court can't even see the DWI's that were prosecuted in Baton Rouge's District Court and vice versa.

A plan is in the works to link systems by the state's district attorneys, but with no funding there's no timeframe on when that will ever become a reality.

Meanwhile, Bernard remains locked up in the East Baton Rouge Parish Jail without bond.

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