A federal appeals court has rejected a Florida law requiring adult welfare applicants to undergo drug screening.
In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld a lower court’s injunction, which temporarily banned the drug testing of applicants for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF).
The judges said “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.”
“The simple act of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF applicant of the same constitutional protection from unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy,” they added.
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As a result, the law will not be enforced while the courts continue to resolve the underlying legal issues.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed the legislation in June 2011, saying it is “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute challenged the law on behalf of a Navy veteran and single father who applied for welfare to support his 4-year-old son.
The state of Florida appealed the preliminary injunction to the 11th circuit. The opinion said the state had not shown a “substantial special need” for mandatory drug testing.
Florida’s law requires adult welfare applicants to pay for and pass a drug test to get benefits. Since the Florida law was enacted, several other states — including Arizona, Missouri, Georgia, Utah, and Tennessee — have approved similar measures.
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