Court Rejects Michigan's Attempt to End ACLU Challenge to Urine Testing of Welfare Recipients

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
April 18, 2000 12:00 am

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DETROIT, MI — Rejecting Michigan’s attempt to end a lawsuit challenging drug testing of welfare recipients, a court today ruled that the action brought by the American Civil Liberties Union must go forward.

In her ruling, federal district court judge Victoria Roberts said that ACLU clients Terry Konieczny and Tanya Marchwinski and the welfare-advocacy group Westside Mothers, are legally entitled to challenge Michigan’s program of suspicionless drug testing of applicants and recipients of state assistance.

“We are very pleased that this case will now be allowed to move forward. We are hopeful that the judge will enter a permanent injunction that prohibits implementation of this unconstitutional drug testing law,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan.

The ACLU has argued that the program testing violates the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that people not be subjected to “searches and seizures” without probable cause or suspicion that illegal activity has occurred.

Last November, Judge Roberts agreed, and issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state from instituting its drug testing program. Shortly after that decision, the state sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that the ACLU’s clients did not have standing to prosecute the action.

Since October 1, 1999, the state Family Independence Agency has operated a pilot program requiring drug testing and treatment for welfare applicants in certain regions of the state, including Detroit. The program began after the Michigan legislature enacted a law requiring such testing.

Those who test positive are required to participate in substance abuse assessment and comply with a required substance abuse treatment plan. Applicants who refuse to submit to drug testing will have their application for assistance denied. Additionally, after six months – in April 2000 – 20 percent of adults and minor parent grantees with active cases up for redetermination would have been randomly selected to be tested.

The parties will now set a schedule for submission of additional briefs. No additional hearing dates have been determined.

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