Blanket Drug Testing for Florida Welfare Applicants Deemed Unconstitutional

In late 2013, a federal judge ruled that a Florida law requiring welfare applicants to undergo drug testing violated their constitutional right to be protected from unreasonable searches. Passed in 2011, the law aimed to protect children and reduce the number of welfare recipients who might use state funds for drugs.

U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. Scriven had temporarily banned the measure, but made the suspension permanent through her December 31 ruling. The New York Times article, "Florida Law on Drug Tests for Welfare Is Struck Down," shared a portion of Scriven's written explanation: "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."

Proponents of the law continue to claim that the state should move to reduce any illegal drug use, especially as it could affect children in families receiving welfare assistance. However, recent data revealed that just 108 out of more than 4,000 individuals failed the drug test requirement while the law was in effect, meaning the measure was losing more money in testing than it recovered in denying drug-positive applicants.

Judge Scriven's decision has far-reaching affects not only for Floridians, but also for residents of eight other states that have passed similar laws since 2011. Tarren Bragdon, chief executive of the Foundation for Government Accountability told the Times reporter that these states would likely change their laws in light of the recent ruling. "You're going to see a shift in strategy of how best to protect kids in a constitutional way," Bragdon said. "The decision is not that you can't drug test applicants. It's that you can't blanket drug test all of them."

Former proponents of the now-banned measure are encouraging the state to continue to drug test any welfare applicants who appear to be drug users – a move that would be deemed constitutional as long as suspicion of drug use was present.

If you are facing charges for a drug offense or any other type of crime, or if you were wrongfully convicted, our St. Augustine criminal defense lawyers at Taylor & Waldrop Attorneys can fight for your rights. We have more than 40 years of combined experience and can give you a straightforward case evaluation of where you stand and how to move forward. Contact us today for your free initial consultation.

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