Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida Law Requiring Drug Tests For Welfare

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A federal judge struck down a controversial law in Florida that required welfare recipients to submit to drug testing.

Signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, it required parents to undergo and pay $25 to $45 for urine tests when applying for the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. If the test came back negative, the cost would be refunded to the applicant. Positive drug tests results in benefits being withheld for one year.

Judge Mary S. Scriven of the United States District Court in Orlando ruled Tuesday that the law violates the Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizure.

“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” Scriven wrote.

Scott, who campaigned on the issue, said the law protected Florida’s children and ensured that tax money wouldn’t be funding illegal drug habits.

“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” Scott said in a statement. “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.”

Tuesday’s ruling was issued on a 2011 suit filed by Navy veteran Luis W. Lebron, who filed public assistance while attending school full time. Lebron, who is a single-father and caregiver to his disabled mother, refused to take the test.

Sources: Huffington Post, New York Times