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Replacement for Mikka Von, she is premieres mid-season in the episode Branded. Hardwicke is a Brooklyn A.D.A. who transfers to Manhattan SVU due to her great admiration for detectives Benson and Stabler. In an interview, Sagemiller states that her character "[is] tough ... she has a heart, she just gets what she wants". She also stated she has a personal connection with Detective Benson: "There's something in my past, a personal connection that we have, something that she did for me and a family member who she helped out ... She's not aware of it yet [but] it becomes revealed in the next several episodes".
In her debut episode, Hardwicke is said to have a 92% conviction rate, and is set to keep it (or increase it) by any means. Though throughout the episode, as the assailant-turned victim reveals a twist in the story, Hardwicke is determined to prosecute her. However, Hardwicke eventually sides with Benson and "does the right thing"
In the episode "Penetration", Hardwicke, along with Benson, try to convince Agent Dana Lewis to go on trial to prosecute her rapist.