ACLU Sues to Stop Mandatory Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients

In Florida, the rights group is fighting to protect assistance applicants from suspicionless drug testing because they say it violates the fourth amendment.

Posted: 09/07/2011 01:42 PM EDT

In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the ACLU is claiming that Florida’s new law mandating drug testing of applicants of temporary assistance is discriminatory.

 

The organization filed the suit against the law that took effect on July 1, 2011, on behalf of a 35-year-old Orlando resident, navy veteran, full-time student and single father Luis Lebron. In July 2011 Lebron applied for temporary assistance to support his four-year-old son. He also is the sole caregiver for his disabled mother. Though he met all criteria for assistance, he refused to waive his fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

 

“I served my country, I’m in school finishing my education and trying to take care of my son,” Lebron said. “It’s insulting and degrading that people think I’m using drugs just because I need a little help to take care of my family while I finish up my education.”

 

Under the new drug testing law, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants are required to submit and pass a urine test for drug use before receiving assistance. In addition to passing the test, applicants are also required to pay around $30 to $35 to have the test administered, and wait to be reimbursed by the state if they pass. If their test is positive the applicant losses benefits for one year.

 

“This law violates more than the rights guaranteed by our Constitution — it violates basic American dignity and fairness by assuming that everyone who needs help is a lazy drug abuser,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLUFL. “Ugly, disproven stereotypes make bad laws.”

 

The organization claims that in very few circumstances have courts allowed suspicionless drug testing by government. In those limited circumstances, public safety was at risk: for example, railroad workers who operated dangerous equipment or border patrol agents who carry firearms and are involved in drug interdiction were tested.

 

In 2000, a federal court ruling in Michigan declared a similar law unconstitutional.

 

“I’m asking the Courts to protect my rights and the rights of other Floridians because this law treats me like a potential criminal for no reason at all,” Lebron said.

 

To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.

 

(Photo: ACLU)

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