ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A federal judge has struck down a Florida law requiring recipients of welfare benefits to undergo mandatory drug testing. It's the latest in an ongoing court battle between Governor Rick Scott and the American Civil Liberties Union over a bill Scott signed into law in 2011.
In her 30-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven ruled Tuesday that the law was unconstitutional and shouldn't be enforced, stating "there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied.”
The ruling made permanent an earlier, temporary ban on the law by the judge. The ban has been upheld by other courts as well.
Governor Rick Scott had backed the drug testing of prospective welfare recipients, arguing it helped protect taxpayers and families.
Opponents of the law, including the ACLU, had argued it was an unconstitutional search and seizure.
Below is a statement by Governor Rick Scott about wanting to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals:
Governor Scott said, “Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child. We should have a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families – especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children. We will continue to fight for Florida children who deserve to live in drug-free homes by appealing this judge’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.”
Below is a snippet of a statement from the ACLU, declaring victory over the Judge's ruling:
“This is a victory not just for Luis [Lebron]*** and his family, but for all Floridians who would have been forced to submit to invasive and humiliating searches of their bodily fluids just because they need temporary help making ends meet,” stated Maria Kayanan, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida and lead attorney on the case. “In reconfirming that the Fourth Amendment protects all of us, regardless of wealth or status, Judge Scriven’s decision soundly rejects the notion that the government can treat an entire class of Floridians like suspected criminals simply for being poor. We are thrilled to ring in the New Year with the Court’s opinion.”
***Note: The ACLU had filed suit on behalf of Luis Lebron, a Navy veteran and single father from Orlando.