Wednesday, January 1, 2014
The New York Times reports that a federal judge has ruled unconstitutional Florida's law requiring recipients of welfare benefits to submit to mandatory drug testing.
“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” [the judge] wrote. The ruling made permanent an earlier, temporary ban by the judge.
Mr. Scott, who had argued that the drug testing was necessary to protect children and ensure that tax money was not going to illegal drugs, said that the state would appeal the ruling.
“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” he said in a statement. “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.”
“I think what we are seeing is Florida pursuing a strategy of protecting kids by testing all applicants,” Mr. Bragdon said. “You’re going to see a shift in strategy of how to best protect kids in a constitutional way.”
For example, some states are now screening applicants and require drug tests only of those who appear to be drug users. “The decision is not that you can’t drug test applicants,” Mr. Bragdon said. “It’s that you can’t blanket drug test all of them.”
Very good, Mr. Bragdon. The Fourth Amendment prohibits suspicionless searches, which are inherently unreasonable. So, yes, if the state can articulate grounds for subjecting a specific citizen to drug testing, you can do so after you get a warrant. But, those articulable grounds cannot be based on someone's economic class.
I also doubt that justifying this policy on the need to protect children makes good sense, especially given that Gov. Scott's proposed policy seeks to protect those children by subjecting their parents to degradation in excess of what is already accomplished by his rhetoric.
Furthermore, I'm extremely skeptical that the state can establish non-capricious grounds for judging who "appear[s] to be a drug user," although former Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) might disagree.