Yesterday, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld a district court injunction that bars Florida from making people who apply for benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to first submit to drug-screening.
Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, has stated during interviews that he will continue to fight for the ability to require drug tests prior to providing welfare payments, even if it takes him to the US Supreme Court.
Judge Rosemary Barkett, a former Florida Supreme Court justice, wrote that citizens do not give up Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches when they ask for government help.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida pressed the case on behalf of Luis Lebron, a Navy veteran and father of a 4-year-old girl, who was denied TANF payments of $241 a month when he refused to submit to a drug test.
Scott promised drug tests for welfare recipients during his 2010 campaign and the 2011 Florida legislature agreed. Before the ACLU obtained an injunction, state records revealed that very few applicants actually tested positive.
Maria Kayanan, associate legal director for the ACLU, said the 11th Circuit ruling vindicated opponents of mandatory drug-testing rules. A similar statute in Georgia is also on hold, pending resolution of Florida’s issues.
“The state of Florida can’t treat an entire segment of our community like suspected criminals, simply because they are poor and are trying to get temporary assistance from the government to support their families,” Kayanan said.