Oct 6, 2004


Rush Limbaugh’s medical records were properly seized by investigators seeking information on alleged illegal drug use, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

State investigators had raided the offices of Limbaugh’s doctors seeking information on whether the conservative radio commentator illegally tried to buy prescription painkillers. Limbaugh, 53, has not been charged with a crime and the investigation had been at a standstill pending a decision on the medical records.

“We hold that the constitutional right of privacy in medical records is not implicated by the State’s seizure and review of medical records under a valid search warrant without prior notice or hearing,” a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled.

Prosecutors went after Limbaugh’s medical records after learning that he received about 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion.

Limbaugh admitted his addiction to pain medication last October, saying it stemmed from severe back pain. He took a five-week leave from his radio show to enter a rehabilitation program.

A spokesman for Limbaugh did not have any immediate comment.

State Attorney Barry Krischer, a Democrat who’s been accused by Limbaugh of having political motivations in the case, said the appellate ruling validates the investigation and will allow the case to move forward.

“This office did not violate any of Mr. Limbaugh’s constitutional rights, but to the contrary acted in accord with Florida law,” Krischer said.

Limbaugh’s attorney argued before the appellate court in April that investigators should have provided some notice they were going to seize records containing private information, instead of using search warrants and giving Limbaugh no chance to challenge the seizure.

“The Legislature said you can’t do a wholesale seizure and hope to find evidence of a crime,” attorney Roy Black said at the April hearing. “You’d have to stand privacy on its head.”

But prosecutors insisted that giving notice would have limited their ability to investigate allegations that Limbaugh illegally “doctor shopped” to obtain pain pills, a practice that refers to visiting several doctors to receive duplicate prescriptions of controlled narcotics.