Judge Questions Earnhardt Photo Law

By: Amanda Riddle, Associated Press Writer

(AP) A judge said Tuesday he was concerned about the constitutionality of a state law restricting public access to autopsy photos.

The law was passed a year ago after the death of race car driver Dale Earnhardt during the Daytona 500.

Circuit Judge Leroy Moe, hearing arguments in a media challenge to the law, said the state’s open records statute may trump a family’s pain in having the photos made public. “That might be the price we pay for a free society,” he said.

The law makes it a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, for unauthorized people to view or copy autopsy photos without a court order.

Attorneys for the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel argued the law should be struck down because it is too broad. But state Solicitor General Tom Warner said the law protects the privacy rights of family members.

“I’m not sure the constitution protects hurt feelings,” Moe said Tuesday.

The judge said he would announce his ruling in the next few weeks.

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