Florida Cannot Drug Test People Simply Because They’re Poor

Remember that amazing Daily Show segment a couple years ago in which a correspondent asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to pee into a cup? Governor Scott was dead set on forcing some of the state's poorest, most vulnerable citizens to submit to humiliating and expensive drug tests before they could receive public benefits. According to the Daily Show correspondent, it should follow then that lawmakers, including Governor Scott – who also cash checks that come from public funds – should receive the same treatment.

Not surprisingly, Governor Scott refused to have his urine tested for drugs. Why? We can only guess, but it's probably because mandatory and suspicionless drug tests are invasive, offensive, ineffective, and – as of this week – officially unconstitutional.

Citing the 4th Amendment's protections against unreasonable government searches, a federal District Court handed down a blistering decision in the final hours of 2013 that knocked down a Florida law mandating that all applicants for the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program submit to suspicionless drug tests.

Let's take a look at just one of the applicants who would have been subject to the now-defunct Florida law. In 2011, Luis Lebron, a 35-year-old Navy veteran and single father, was struggling to make ends meet. Trying to put himself through college while raising a kid and taking care of his aging, disabled mother meant that money was tight. So Mr. Lebron decided—for good reason— to apply for TANF benefits. The state's response? "Pee into this cup so we can make sure you're not going to spend the money on drugs." We're talking about a whopping $241 per month. When Mr. Lebron refused to be treated like a criminal simply because he was seeking out a bit of financial help, he was denied public assistance. He sued, represented by the ACLU, and because of his fight all Floridians will now be protected from invasive and humiliating searches of their bodily fluids just because they need temporary help putting food on the table.

Governor Scott campaigned hard for this law, making the dubious claim that applicants for public assistance are more likely than the general population to be drug users and therefore that they should be subjected to mandatory and suspicionless searches of their urine. It turned out that so few applicants for public assistance actually tested positive for drugs – during the short period of time during which this law was operational – that Florida ended up shelling out thousands more dollars reimbursing those who tested negative than it saved on public assistance payments to those who tested positive. Let this be a lesson that trying to prove that an entire class of people should be treated like criminals is a costly and futile endeavor.

Sometimes laws, like Florida's drug testing scheme, that are patently discriminatory manage to make their way onto the books, despite the best efforts of those advocating for fairness and justice. Remember, as another example, the suspicionless, mandatory drug testing of all incoming college students at a public college in Missouri? When our courts work well, they strike down laws like these down in no uncertain terms, as the District Court did in this Florida case.

Here's hoping 2014 will be a year in which other states trying to impose similarly discriminatory laws will find that the Constitution is standing in their way.

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Will the ACLU do anything about the users being excluded from jobs?


I had to pee in a cup before I could get my teaching job, so I don't see why politicians should be exempt. Too bad I had to pay for it. How many teachers do you think do drugs in the days before their interviews? What an unnecessary cash cow for Scott's friends in the medical field.


It would help a lot if your authors would use English and the proper spelling!

The word is THEY'RE!

I expect organizations such as yours to have educated people and not 'texters' or teen agers write articles for public consumption.


My children must pee in a cup upon demand for their jobs!! If ANYONE wants tax payer funds they should have to do the same!!!!
It's disappointing to think you folks get my money for your paychecks and wrong thinking and I cannot do a thing about it!


If I used drugs I wouldn't have my job. So why should benefits be different. Drug test everyone. There is only one reason that someone will not take a drug test... they will fail it. All this other stuff is a smoke screen. It was very well worded though. Like saying "treated like criminals " I did not feel that way when I got my drug test for work. No one had hand cuff on or waiting for results behind bars. Even more they have a choice to take it. I'm done now I have more but it will just fall on deft ears.


The difference is that the Governor has EARNED the money and he can spend it any way he wants. Welfare recipients need to show the taxpayers they are not using the money for illegal purposes. Nothing wrong with that.



I'd guess it's because he has something IN his pee that he doesn't want people to know about - like marijuana use. I don't think it's legal in Florida YET.
Anyway, he probably had OTHER things in it - like proof of alcohol consumption. Alcohol's a drug, it's actually the most deadly one there is b/c a person can die withdrawing from it but never mind that.

What gets on MY f*ckin' nerves is someone becoming "poor" after they got shot by a maniac, lost their job b/c they could no longer do it, lost conventional health care b/c they hit all these imaginary ceilings and caps, then became "indigent" b/c there was almost nothing else left for them to do - and that's not even the WORST part of it.
THEN the gd people who don't care WHAT kind of fool can have access to a deadly weapon that can kill you from across the room get angry when anybody mentions that there are SOME PEOPLE in this world who have no earthly business with any weapon much less one that can kill you from a distance.
They'd rather believe that Adam Lanza had a right to bear arms even though he was going to use them to slaughter 27 people like pigs, 20 of them being less than 7 years old.

ms. sally

Texas just passed a law requiring people applying for unemployment benefits to be drug-tested. I hope ACLU will pick up this case also. Congratulations or your win in Florida!


Well considering the author of this article graduated from Harvard and received his law degree from NYU School of Law, I think it's a bit extreme to call this an article written by a "texter" or teenager.


Drug testing politicians would be a good idea, since most job applicants must submit to drug tests these days in order to get a job. Also, drug testing should include alcohol. That would disqualify many of our politicians who, as we all know, are receiving government checks.


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