Florida Welfare Drug Testing Ruled Unconstitutional | TANF

Federal U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven, ruled that Gov. Rick Scott’s law requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests is unconstitutional.

Scott quickly said he would appeal the latest beat down for the Republican Rick Scott. Rick Scott’s attack is aimed at Florida’s poorest residents.

Judge Scriven ruled that drug testing for welfare violates the Fourth Amendment that protects American citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.

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

Scott ran his campaign using the mandatory drug tests for welfare as a strong point and he won. Is that what the majority of Florida residents want? Scott says his intention for the law was to protect children from having to grow up with drugs around.

“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful, and even abusive to a child. 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. We will continue to fight for Florida children who deserve to live in drug-free homes by appealing this judge’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals,” Scott said after the ruling.

Florida Legislature passed the law in 2011 that required all Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants to take the drug tests. The law also makes the applicants pay for the drug tests (about $35). If the needy pass the test the money is refunded.

On the behalf of Luis Lebron, The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued the state of Florida. In late 2011, Judge Scriven put the law on hold. Scott then appealed. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel then agreed with Judge Scriven. A full court review of the new law requested by Scott was turned down.

Scott’s attorneys argue that TANF applicants should be an exception to the USA Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. They claim the drug tests ensure those receiving TANF benefits are ready for jobs.

Judge Scriven scrutinized expert witnesses and evidence Florida Republicans used to create the law.

Judge Scriven wrote:

“In sum, there simply is no competent evidence offered on this record of the sort of pervasive drug problem the State envisioned in the promulgation of this statute,”

“If persons in an economic demographic could be shown to have a higher rate of drug use, would all such persons in that economic group be subjected to drug testing? Even if such suspicionless testing as proposed by the State were limited to those persons receiving state funds, would college students receiving governmental assistance to subsidize their education, for example, be subjected to random, suspicionless drug testing if it could be shown that drug use is demonstrably higher among college students? The Supreme Court’s Fourth Amendment precedent would suggest not.”

ACLU of Florida Attorney Maria Kayanan said Judge Scriven’s decision “is a sound rejection of the evidence that the state presented to the district court in its attempt to establish that TANF applicants used drugs at a higher rate than the general population.”

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