updated 11/12/2004 8:45:20 AM ET 2004-11-12T13:45:20

A prosecutor known for being “tough as nails” in drunken driving cases was charged with DUI after police said they stopped her with three children in her car.

Lydia Dempsey Wardell, 37, was arrested Wednesday near her home and was found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.23 percent, nearly three times the legal limit in Florida for drivers, police said.

She was released on $500 bail and unavailable for comment Thursday, the St. Petersburg Times said.

“She’s extremely remorseful about her conduct and knows it’s not acceptable and is ready to pay the consequences,” said Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant to Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

If Wardell keeps her job, she would no longer be allowed to participate in drunken driving prosecutions, Bartlett said.

Wardell rarely prosecutes those cases in the courtroom, but as a supervisor, she often discusses them with defense attorneys seeking a reduction or dismissal.

“She is very reluctant to ever reduce charges or make any deal on a DUI,” Bartlett said. “She’s tough as nails and has a lot of enemies in defense lawyers because of her positions on these type of cases.”

Pinellas prosecutors often charge DUI defendants with child neglect when they have children in the car. It was unclear whether police considered that charge against Wardell.

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