U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven has sounded the death knell for the Florida law that would have required anyone seeking public assistance to submit to drug testing.
The ALEC-inspired law supported by the pharmaceutical industry which would profit from the testing, was already on hold after an appeals court panel unanimously found:
“The simple fact of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) applicant of the same constitutional protection from unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy.”
Republican legislators however, have recently found the idea of shaming poor people is a winner with the Tea Party crowd and refused to take no for an answer. This week, Judge Mary S. Scriven once again rejected Florida’s argument that the law was needed:
“There is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a ‘concrete danger’ that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use or that should drug use occur, that the lives of TANF recipients are ‘fraught with such risks of injury to others that even a momentary lapse of attention can have disastrous consequences.”
Courts have always held that drug tests are a “search” under the Fourth Amendment, and searches require a reasonable suspicion that the person is guilty of a crime. To attempt to get around the search restriction, the Florida law would have required people to “consent” to random drug test. However, not giving such “consent” meant that person was not eligible for assistance. The courts have rejected that reasoning.
In spite of the fact state drug testing laws have consistently been found unconstitutional, the shaming of the poor continues to be such feel-good Republican politics that many states have enacted, or are considering similar laws. Only Kansas has a bill pending that would make drug testing mandatory for all state legislators.
Florida is expected to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
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