A U.S. district judge on Monday ordered an injunction on a Florida law requiring welfare applicants to pass a drug test before receiving state benefits.
An ACLU lawsuit filed in September claimed the Florida law violates the Fourth Amendment by requiring welfare applicants to submit to a “suspicionless” drug test. The suit was filed on behalf of Luis Lebron, a 35-year-old Orlando resident and Navy veteran who applied for welfare benefits but refused to take the drug test.
“I’m delighted for our client and delighted to have confirmation that all of us remain protected from unreasonable, suspicionless government searches and seizures,” Florida ACLU Legal Director Maira Kayanan said in a release.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has insisted the law increases “personal responsibility” and keeps public funds from financing drug habits. Scott has even said that drug use is “much higher” among welfare recipients than in the population at large. Early results from the drug tests suggest otherwise. And the court isn’t buying Scott’s claim.
“… the state provides scant evidence that rampant drug abuse exists among this class of individuals,” Judge Mary Scriven writes in the court order.
“The constitutional rights of a class of citizens are at stake, and the Constitution dictates that the needs asserted to justify subverting those rights must be special, as the case law defines that term, in order for this exception to the Fourth Amendment to apply. … That showing has not been made on this record.”
Jack Schultz, deputy press secretary for Gov. Scott, told TPM in an email, “Drug testing welfare recipients is just a common-sense way to ensure that welfare dollars are used to help children and get parents back to work. The governor obviously disagrees with the decision and he will evaluate his options regarding when to appeal.”
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David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com