Federal Court Thwarts Rick Scott Once Again On Drug Testing

Federal Court Rules Against Drug Tests For Welfare Recipients

WASHINGTON -- A federal court has ruled once again that Florida's short-lived effort to drug test all welfare applicants violated their constitutional rights.

For several months in 2011, Florida required all applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to submit urine samples to prove they weren't on drugs. The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of a single dad named Luis Lebron and a federal court halted the drug testing scheme with a preliminary injunction.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) appealed the injunction, then appealed the court's final decision. Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has affirmed it once again, ruling that making all welfare applicants take drug tests violates their Fourth Amendment rights against involuntary search and seizure.

A key factor in the court's decision is that the state has failed to demonstrate "a more prevalent, unique, or different drug problem among TANF applicants than in the general population," the panel wrote in its decision Wednesday. Just 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive for drugs before the program was halted.

Earlier this year the Florida ACLU mocked Scott for spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on futile appeals.

"It’s become a costly and embarrassing boondoggle for Floridians," Florida ACLU staff attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal said at the time.

A Scott spokesman said Wednesday the governor is reviewing the court's decision.

Ever since Scott ran afoul of federal courts, other states that have sought to drug test welfare recipients have tried to avoid civil liberties lawsuits by testing only applicants the state has reason to suspect might be on drugs.

This story has been updated to include a response from Scott's office.

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