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Florida Law Mandating Drug Tests For Welfare Struck Down By Federal Judge

Posted by on Jan. 2, 2014 at 3:22 AM
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5 moms liked this

Reuters  |  Posted:

Dec 31 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday struck down a Florida law requiring drug screening for welfare recipients, saying that it violated the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who campaigned on a promise to expand drug testing, said he would appeal the ruling.

The law took effect in July 2011 and required parents to undergo and pay for urine tests for illegal drugs when they applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a federal-state program that helps poor people with children pay for food, shelter and necessities.

The testing fee of $25 to $45 was to be repaid by the state if the test came back negative, but applicants who tested positive would have been barred from receiving benefits for a year.

Enforcement of the law was temporarily halted in October 2011 after the American Civil Liberties Union sued, arguing that mandatory testing of people who were not suspected of using drugs violated the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven permanently halted enforcement of the law in Tuesday's ruling. She agreed with an earlier court finding that "there is nothing inherent in the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a concrete danger that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use...."

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Orlando on behalf of Luis Lebron, a U.S. Navy veteran, college student and single father with sole custody of his then-5-year-old son.

Lebron was denied benefits when he refused to take the test.

"The new law assumes that everyone who needs a little help has a drug problem," Lebron said when the suit was filed in 2011. "It's wrong and unfair. It judges a whole group of people on their temporary economic situation."

Scott and other supporters of the law argued that welfare recipients needed to be drug-free to prepare them for jobs. They said businesses had been requiring such tests for years and that government should do the same to ensure that taxpayer money wasn't used to buy illegal drugs.

"Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child," Scott said on Tuesday. "We should have a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families - especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children."

During the time the law was in effect, about 2.6 percent of recipients tested positive for illegal drugs, mostly for marijuana, according to the court documents.

The failure rate was well below that of the general population. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found in a 2009 survey that about 8.7 percent of the population aged 12 or older had used illicit drugs in the previous month.

Generally, the courts have allowed suspicionless drug testing only when public safety is at risk, such as for armed officers or railroad workers who operate heavy equipment.

by on Jan. 2, 2014 at 3:22 AM
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by Platinum Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 4:20 AM
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So based on the fact that 2.6% of PA recipients tested vs 8.7% of the general population test positive for drugs, it would appear that those on PA are less likely to use drugs.

Kind of refutes the stereotype of the person selling their food stamps for drug money, while the kids eat only free school lunches.
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by on Jan. 2, 2014 at 4:37 AM
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Good. I am glad it was struck down.
by on Jan. 2, 2014 at 4:42 AM
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Other testing programs have also been struck down before. I know there is a hatred and mistrust of those on public assistance and politicians think they are getting a proverbial feather in their cap when they vote for testing, but they are just causing undue hardship and costing the tax payers more than they save. 

by Redwood Witch on Jan. 2, 2014 at 4:43 AM
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by Ruby Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 4:56 AM
I can't believe Scott pushed for more testing when the initial results were so robust, damning, and we're able to show his hypocrisy and personal greed in the situation.
by Gold Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 6:08 AM
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1. Laws like this are unconstitutional.

2. They cost the state far more than they save, so they end up wasting more of taxpayers' money.

3. They ultimately end up hurting kids.

Glad it was struck down.

by Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 7:37 AM
Glad it was struck down....Scott is an ass...
by Ruby Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 7:48 AM
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If it weren't for DisneyWorld there would be nothing worthy about Florida. It isn't just the governor. It's Bush country & like Texass, the state sucks.
by Bronze Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 8:43 AM

Hmmm...I never thought testing PA recipients would violate the unreasonable search & seizure thing.  Makes sense.  I don't see how anyone poor enough to be on assistance can afford any real drugs anyway.  A joint here or there wouldn't break the bank...but addictions are expensive.

by Bronze Member on Jan. 2, 2014 at 8:49 AM
Glad to hear it!
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