A public defender attorney in the local court system was arrested Monday evening and charged with DUI, stemming from an incident in which she allegedly drove an SUV over a handicapped parking sign in the Pier Village parking lot and caused damage inside Neptune Park on St. Simons Island, according to a Glynn County police report.

Police allege that Leslie Jean Cardin hit a trash can and a small tree in the oceanfront park, then drove back onto the roadway and drove away. She was stopped moments later at Mallery and Magnolia streets by a patrol officer responding to reports from concerned citizens of a dangerous driver, the police report said.

Cardin, of St. Simons Island, was booked into the Glynn County Detention Center at 7 p.m. Monday, charged with DUI and hit-and-run failure to report an accident, according to jail records. Cardin, 60, allegedly consented to a “state administered test of her breath,” the report said. She allegedly registered .187 and .179; the legal limit in Georgia is .08. Cardin was released from jail Tuesday on her own recognizance, jail records show.

Cardin is a public defender within the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, representing the Conflict Defender Office in Atlanta. The Conflict Defender Office assigns attorneys to represent individuals when the local judicial circuit Public Defender Office has a conflict of interest, said Brunswick Judicial Circuit Public Defender Stephen Tillman.

At around 6:30 p.m. Monday, police received reports that a “possible drunk driver ... was just observed driving through the playground area of Neptune Park,” the arrest report said. Witnesses told police the blue SUV “was driving over signs, trash cans, and running into trees, and fled the scene,” the report stated.

The vehicle then drove out of the Pier Village on Mallery Street toward the intersection at Kings Way. Moments later, county police officer Heather Savage encountered a blue Toyota C-HR “nearly hit a parked vehicle next to it” as it pulled into a parking lot at the intersection of Mallery and Magnolia streets, the report said. The officer allegedly smelled “a heavy aroma of alcoholic beverage emanating from the vehicle” as Cardin opened the door, the report said. “Cardin admitted to having one glass of wine approximately one hour ago,” the report said.

While Savage was questioning Cardin, a witness to the alleged incidents at Neptune Park arrived at the scene of the traffic stop and stated “that was the correct vehicle,” the report said. Another witness allegedly confirmed “that Cardin was the driver of the Blue SUV that was observed causing damage to the park,” the report said. Officer Savage “observed damage to Cardin’s SUV that was consistent with the damage to the park,” the report said.

Cardin was taken to Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick campus hospital for medical clearance before being booked into the county jail, the report said.

Officer Savage later spoke with another witness at Neptune Park. The witness told the officer the he saw “an older white woman driving a blue SUV into a handicapped sign in a parking space,” the report said. After allegedly moving the vehicle in erratic movements backward and forward, the woman “drove over the sidewalk into Neptune Park. After crossing over the sidewalk, (the witness stated) he observed the blue SUV knock over a trash can and circle through the park.” While in the park, the driver “ran over a small tree knocking it over,” the report said.

The witness told police the vehicle “crossed over the sidewalk again, entered back into the parking lot and fled the area towards ... Mallery Street and Ocean Blvd.,” the report said.

County Public Works employees estimated the damage to Neptune Park at $600, department director Dave Austin said Wednesday. That estimate includes $500 for the tree and $100 repairing the handicapped parking sign, he said. The trash can was not damaged.

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