Florida ACLU Files Suit Against State’s Welfare Drug Testing Law

September 7, 2011 10:37 a.m.
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The Florida ACLU has filed suit against a state law requiring welfare applicants to first pass a drug test before receiving benefits.

The suit claims the Florida law violates the Fourth Amendment by requiring welfare applicants to submit to “suspicionless drug testing.” It’s filed on behalf of Luis Lebron, a 35 year-old Orlando resident and Navy veteran, who applied for the benefits but refused to take the drug test, according to an ACLU release.“I served my country, I’m in school finishing my education and trying to take care of my son,” Lebron said in the statement. “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.”

Lebron approached the Florida ACLU about the legislation, Florida ACLU spokesperson Baylor Johnson told TPM, after which the ACLU was ready to take legal action.

Scott said back in June that the law would increase “personable responsibility” of welfare applicants, adding that studies show drug use is “much higher” among welfare recipients than the population at large. But now that the law has been implemented, early results show that only about 2 percent of applicants have tested positive.

Scott’s press secretary Lane Wright echoed that sentiment, telling TPM in an email “It’s important we make sure taxpayer money isn’t going to help pay for someone’s drug habit, but that the money is going to help the children for whom it was intended.”

Wright said the governor’s office is confident it’s on “solid legal ground.” But Johnson said the basis for the legislation is “nothing more than an unfair stereotype about poor people.”

On the results of the drug tests, Johnson added that “the unscientific theory, the stereotype, upon which this policy is based has been pretty well debunked by the policy itself.”

Read the complaint below:

Lebron v. Secretary of the Florida Department of Children & Families

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