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Oldsmar vice mayor crashes Tesla, faces DUI charge, say Hillsborough deputies

Deputies say the city official was driving a red Tesla "erratically" before the crash. The Sheriff's Office tweeted about the incident.
Oldsmar Vice Mayor Linda Norris was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on Wednesday, Aug. 12.
Oldsmar Vice Mayor Linda Norris was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on Wednesday, Aug. 12. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Aug. 12, 2020
Updated Aug. 13, 2020

OLDSMAR — Vice Mayor Linda Norris faces a charge of driving under the influence after Hillsborough deputies say she caused a three-vehicle crash on Wednesday.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announced her arrest on its official Twitter account at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, which included photos of the vice mayor being questioned, a damaged vehicle and her booking photo.

The crash took place at about 10:30 a.m. on W Hillsborough Avenue near Race Track Road, just outside the city limits and the Pinellas County border, on the Hillsborough side of the county line.

A 911 caller reported seeing a red Tesla driving “erratically” on W Hillsborough Avenue, then rear-ending another vehicle, according to the Sheriff’s Office. That caused a chain-reaction crash, deputies said, as the Tesla pushed one vehicle into the rear of another.

When deputies arrived, they asked Norris, 59, to step out the Tesla’s driver’s seat.

“They immediately noticed she was slurring her words and her movements appeared unstable,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “Deputies asked her where she was going and where she came from but said Norris was unable to provide a clear answer.”

An open container of Fireball whiskey was found in her center console and two more closed bottles in her purse, deputies said. She failed field sobriety exercises at the scene, deputies said, and refused to take a Breathalyzer exam.

She was arrested on misdemeanor citations for DUI third conviction and refusal to submit to testing. She was released from the Hillsborough County jail on a $1,000 bail, according to jail records.

There were no injuries. But Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister, who faces an opponent in Tuesday’s Republican primary, released a statement criticizing the mayor.

“It’s infuriating to know some drivers have no respect for the law or the lives around them,” the sheriff said. “Furthermore, Linda Norris is a public official and should behave accordingly. Instead, she serves as an example of our commitment to identifying and catching those who break the law, no matter who they are.”