A federal judge has pulled the plug on Florida’s drug tests for welfare recipients. U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven handed down her injunction late Monday afternoon, halting the testing.
In the 37-page court order, Scriven writes that the drug testing of all welfare recipients regardless of suspicion likely violates Fourth Amendment rights preventing “suspicionless searches.”
10 News was the only Bay area TV station to speak with the plaintiff in the case against the state, Luis Lebron.
Lebron, a 35-year-old single father, works part-time and attends school full-time at the University of Central Florida. “I served in the United States Navy for four years,” Lebron told us. “I came out of the military and wanted to continue working and pursuing my degree as well and, right now, I’m about to complete my bachelor’s degree in accounting.”
When Luis applied for temporary cash assistance from Florida to help care for his 4-year-old son, Jordan, he says it was insulting that the state automatically assumed that he might be using drugs. The new law demanded Luis submit to a drug test and pay for it upfront at a cost of up to $40.
“I felt really bad inside. My gut feeling was this was wrong,” Lebron told 10 News.
Judge Scriven appears to agree with Lebron, writing there’s “substantial likelihood that his challenge to the constitutionality…under the Fourth Amendment will succeed.”
Still, Governor Rick Scott champions the drug testing, calling it “common sense.” His spokesperson said, “The governor obviously disagrees with the decision, and he will evaluate his options regarding when to appeal.”
While Luis and attorneys from the ACLU gear up for what could be a years-long court battle, he is confident the drug tests will eventually be struck down, “I just felt that demonizing the poor…it’s a bad thing. We can’t make assumptions.”
Judge Scriven also wrote that she found it “troubling” that these welfare drug tests are not kept private. Scriven says personal medical information could be made public and that the results could be shared with police and even a drug abuse hotline. That raises even more concerns for her about violating Floridians’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Scriven will not make a final ruling until after a more extensive hearing. A date for that hearing has not yet been set.