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Former prosecutor Wardell avoids jail sentence in second DUI

TAMPA — A Hillsborough judge opted not to send former Pinellas-Pasco prosecutor Lydia Wardell to jail this week after she pleaded no contest to her second drunken driving charge.

Wardell, 41, was arrested in July after Tampa police saw her speeding and driving carelessly on Bayshore Boulevard.

Prosecutors sought at least a 30-day jail sentence. State law calls for a mandatory 10 days in jail if someone is arrested twice for driving under the influence within five years, as Wardell was.

However, judges have the discretion to count residential treatment as jail time, said Assistant State Attorney Douglas Covington. Hillsborough County Judge Lawrence Lefler did just that, sentencing Wardell to the 111 days of in-patient treatment that she completed at an Alabama facility.

The judge also sentenced her to eight months of probation. For 90 days, she must wear a monitoring device that will alert authorities if she consumes alcohol, a violation that would likely land her in jail.

Wardell's driver's license is suspended for five years. Her car will be impounded for 30 days, and she must pay a $1,000 fine and perform 50 hours of community service.

In 2005, Wardell received 18 months of probation after she was arrested for driving drunk with her two sons, ages 3 and 6, in the car. Prior to that arrest, she was known for her aggressive prosecution of DUI and other cases as a misdemeanor court supervisor for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.

She was on unpaid leave at the time of her second arrest, and resigned soon after. She has not practiced law since and is now in out-patient treatment, said her attorney, Barry Taracks.

Former prosecutor Wardell avoids jail sentence in second DUI 01/23/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 11:10am]
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