LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — A Lafayette man arrested after a hit and run Monday is also facing at least his ninth OWI arrest.
However, Jose Omar Cruz-Hernandez is only being charged with fourth offense OWI. Viewers reached out for an explanation of why.
Hernandez struck two parked vehicles and a fire hydrant before flipping his vehicle around three in the morning. It’s not the first time, others have been caught in the crossfires of Hernandez behind the wheel.
Lafayette Police Department (LPD) Public Information Officer Sgt. Robin Green said, “We saved a life by taking him off the roadway.”
Jose Omar Cruz is charged with home improvement fraud, theft, hit and run, resisting an officer, and operating while intoxicated. According to public information officer Robin Green, his mannerisms and odor of alcohol alerted responding cops.
Sgt. Green said, “Possibly that Mr. Hernandez was under the influence.”
His charge for OWI is a fourth offense, though police records show he has a history of more than eight drunk driving arrests since 2004. So why not charge him a harsher penalty?
Most states have a “washout period” for DUI & OWI convictions varying from 5 to 10 years. In Louisiana, convictions that are older than 10 years don’t count as priors, and that is what happened with Hernandez.
“Mr. Hernandez had other OWI arrests in his criminal history,” Sgt. Green admitted. “We are able to see it, but we can only use within the 10 years.”
Other non-violent crimes have similar cleansing periods. A first offense of marijuana possession only looks back two years for enhancing charges. A 2017 state law further reduced those habitual offender penalties to reduce imprisonment rates.
Hernandez was booked in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center with a $55,000 bond. LPD said it could not release the exact number of Hernandez’s previous OWI arrests in the state.
District Attorney Don Landry admitted to News 10 that in some instances, habitual offenders who bond out have been arrested for additional OWI’s before reaching their court date.