Rush Limbaugh Arrested on Prescription Drug Charges

Rush Limbaugh turned himself in on prescription drug charges this afternoon.

Rush Limbaugh turned himself in on prescription drug charges this afternoon, CNN reports.

Rush Limbaugh was arrested Friday on prescription drug charges, law enforcement officials said. Limbaugh turned himself in to authorities on a warrant issued by the state attorney’s office, said agency spokeswoman Teri Barbera. The conservative radio commentator came into the jail at about 4 p.m. with his attorney Roy Black and was released an hour later on $3,000 bail, Barbera said. The warrant was for fraud to conceal information to obtain prescription, Barbera said.

As I noted when the story first broke, taking desperate measures to obtain prescription drugs to which one has become addicted after legitimate use is a far different animal than criminal use of recreational drugs. I say that even though I think both should be legal.

Update (4/29): A much different spin in the AP version this morning.

A three-year investigation into drug use by Rush Limbaugh ended abruptly when the conservative commentator was booked on a single charge of prescription fraud in a deal his attorney says spares him a trial. The charge will be dropped if Limbaugh continues treatment, attorney Roy Black said Friday. “He feels that a great burden has been lifted from his shoulders,” he said. “What he told me is that this is the first day of the rest of his life.”

Limbaugh surrendered at the Palm Beach County Jail and was booked on a warrant charging him with “doctor shopping,” when a patient illegally deceives multiple physicians to receive overlapping prescriptions. The 55-year-old commentator left an hour later, after he was photographed and fingerprinted and he posted $3,000 bail, said Teri Barbera, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. Under the terms of the deal with prosecutors called a pretrial diversion, to be filed Monday, Limbaugh will be cleared of the charge if he stays clean for 18 months and doesn’t violate any laws, Black said. Limbaugh has publicly acknowledged being addicted to pain medication.


As a formality, Limbaugh entered a not guilty plea to the charge, spokesman Tony Knight said. The radio giant has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation. “He was in high spirits,” Knight said. “It was all a formality. It’s a concluded deal.”

I’m not sure I’d have used the phrase “high spirits” in this content. But, yes, I’m sure he’s quite relieved to have this behind him.

Under the deal, Limbaugh also agreed to pay the state $30,000 to defray the public cost of the investigation and must pay $30 per month for the cost of supervision, during which time he will continue regular drug tests.

This is an interesting provision and certainly not one available to most of us.

Black said Limbaugh has been drug free for 2 1/2 years. After 18 months, “he will not have any criminal record,” he said.


Prosecutors began investigating Limbaugh in 2003 after The National Enquirer reported his housekeeper’s allegations that he had abused OxyContin and other painkillers. He soon took a five-week leave from his radio show to enter a rehabilitation program and acknowledged he had become addicted to pain medication. He blamed it on severe back pain.

“The agreement that we entered into makes good common sense,” Black said. “The idea is to help the person overcome the addiction … There should be a recognition that people like Rush really should not be prosecuted.”

Agreed, although “people like Rush” is a rather vague concept. I would argue that we should not treat addiction, to any substance, as a criminal matter. Even if one opposes legalization of recreational drugs, the emphasis should be on those who distribute them.

Related posts below the fold.


Rush Limbaugh and Doctor-Patient Confidentiality
Rush Limbaugh Offers to Mentor Al Sharpton
Florida Supreme Court Denies Rush Limbaugh Appeal
SNL Limbaugh Drug Skit Controversy
To Hell With Values
Limbaugh Getting Third Divorce
10 Questions For Rush Limbaugh
Limbaugh on ScrappleFace

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Media, Popular Culture, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    Is this a belated arrest on the charges from the other year or are these fresh charges?

    I disapprove of hte arrest, except that Limbaugh has been a complete hypocrite on drug prohibition. Still, as Holbo has told us, poetic justice is not fairness.

  2. James Joyner says:


    It’s not clear from the story, to be sure, but my intuition is that this is the culmination of the three-year-long investigation.

    I do think the issues of prohibition and addiction to legal substances are different. Limbaugh was seeking the Oxycontin, not because it was giving him a high, but because he had horrific back pain.

    But, as I said, both should be legal.

  3. Roger says:

    My understanding is that his story was he initially took the drug as a painkiller and that’s how he became an addict. His housekeeper’s description of his usage was not that of someone taking the drug for pain but the behaviorism of serious addiction.

  4. SgtFluffy says:

    Even on Drugs, Rush is still right

  5. Excuse me, but you’re buying the prosecutor’s spin. The State of Florida caved. He’s being charged with just one count; it’s going to be in abayance for 18 months, and then the charge will be withdrawn.

    Rush is not in jail.

    The case will never be heard by a court.

    The money settlement is next to nothing for this multi-millionaire.

    If the prosecutor had any case at all, he would not be cutting a deal. This is clearly a face-saving measure for the benefit of the prosecutor, whose prosecution was politically motivated to begin with.

    Rush won.

  6. Randall says:

    He should have been in Oklahoma.The Oklahoma County District Attorneys’ wife who is an MD, can commit felony prescription fraud while addicted to pain killers and only get a slap on the wrist from her husband. So whats the big deal in Florida?

  7. anjin-san says:

    Addicted is addicted, it makes no sense to try to somehow differentiate between perscription and street drugs…

  8. Caterine Ignatowski says:

    I have been taking hydrocodone since 1999, due to injuries from an auto accident. Let me tell you this, you do NOT get high on this or any prescription if the pain is severe. I have never taken more of this or any prescription and never have I had the Doctor increase my dosage. It’s nutcases like Limbaugh that make it very hard for people who really need this medication for pain because doctors are literally afraid to prescribe it because of it’s misuse. Limbaugh belongs in jail, he committed a crime and now he has to pay for it.

  9. James Joyner says:

    a-s: I agree that there’s not much different at the point of addiction. The difference comes pre-addiction. One comes as the result of taking legitimate medicine for legitimate reasons under supervision of a legitimate authority; the other comes from violating the law for recreational purposes.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Caterine: I’m unaware of evidence that Limbaugh was getting high, merely that he was addicted. My understanding is that he was in excrutiatng pain but was unable to get the medicine in sufficient does to quell that pain from a single doctor.

  11. anjin-san says:

    I don’t buy the contention that a man with Rush’s resources could not get doctors to provide prescriptions for any legitimate medical need, its just not that difficult to get doctors to write scripts.

    As for legal vs. illegal, what then about the alcoholic? He takes a legal drug for recreational purposes.

    The entire “war on drugs” was born at the end of prohibition when the bureaucracy that had been built around whiskey busting decided they did not want to lose their funding.

    There is no underlying moral truth attached to the legality of drugs like alcohol or nicotine as opposed to pot or cocaine. They both do a great deal of damage, but in fact, cigarettes kill more people then illegal drugs do by order of magnitude.

    An unpleasant little truth is that the war on drugs is a large, profitable industry, and it comes in handy for getting black men into the justice system on the wrong end.

  12. Roger says:

    If Rush had to live by his own pre-addiction standard, he’d either be executed or locked up for life.

  13. Caterine Ignatowski says:

    Rush is not a drug addict,there WERE weapons of mass destruction, George has a very high approval rating, Cheney didn’t shoot a man, the economy is wonderful and Libby did’t leak the name of a CiA operative. Right, as Rush said, it was the damned democrats.

  14. Roger says:

    Josh Marshall gets to the point on this story:

    “Don’t get bamboozled. In criminal cases we don’t call them “settlement agreements.” They are plea bargains. And while the prosecutor’s recommendation to the court will carry great weight, the judge is not obligated to ratify the plea agreement. Oh, and the money being paid is called a fine. Black can call it reimbursement, but that’s BS.

  15. James Joyner says:

    Roger: Except that Limbaugh is not pleading guilty to anything and will have no criminal record if he completes treatment. It amounts to a civil settlement.

    And, presumably, if the judge doesn’t accept it then the prosecutor is back to square one. Which, apparently, is that he has no case.

  16. anjin-san says:

    Wonder how many poor black kids caught with a joint get to cut a sweetheart deal…

  17. Roger says:

    James, you’re not disturbed by the obvious double-standard here as pointed out by the manipulated language Marshall points out. Just good old equal justice in America these days?

  18. James Joyner says:

    Roger: Limbaugh’s case is a double standard in two ways. Were he not famous, he almost certainly would not have been hounded for three years over doctor shopping for pain meds. Were he not rich, he likely wouldn’t have had the quality of legal representation he had and might have plea bargained to a more serious crime because of the intimidation.

    Regardless, my position is that what Limbaugh did should not be a crime, regardless of whether one is a celebrity.

  19. Roger says:

    Were he not famous and rich, Rush would have been in jail by now. Beyond that, your bottom line position is fair enough.