Once again the courts reject Rick Scott's plan to drug test welfare recipients

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On the last day of 2013 a federal judge has issued a final judgement declaring Florida’s 2011 law mandating all applicants for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program submit to suspicionless drug tests is an unconstitutional violation of the protection against unreasonable government searches.

Shortly after the verdict came in, Governor Rick Scott announced plans to appeal the decision, saying Florida should have "zero tolerance" for illegal drugs.

The decision is the latest that courts have ruled on the matter ever since the bill was signed into law over two years ago. Back in October of 2011 a lower court found that the Sunshine State had failed to demonstrate a special need for drug testing poverty-stricken parents who apply for cash benefits from the TANF program. And in February of 2013 a federal court upheld the ban.

The ACLU of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute have challenged the case on behalf of Luis Lebron, a Navy veteran and single father from Orlando.

PolitiFact reports that while the law was in effect from July through October 2011, about 2.6 percent — or 108 of 4,046 people — tested positive for drugs, the most common being marijuana.

In her order today, Judge Mary Scriven of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida rejected the state’s arguments and evidence defending the constitutionality of the suspicionless search program, stating that 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 policy now struck down by the federal courts was based on a misguided campaign pledge by Gov. Rick Scott,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida in a press release. “He misled his supporters about the requirements of the Constitution, and, instead of protecting Floridians with the greatest need, he appealed to ugly prejudices and false stereotypes about people applying for temporary assistance from the state.”

And Simon notes that since Scott took office in January of 2011 the ACLU has filed or intervened in at least 10 lawsuits challenging his policies.

“These cases have also defended privacy rights against mandatory urine tests for state workers, protected the right to vote, defended the separation of church and state, and guarded the freedom of speech for doctors to discuss gun safety with their parents. For a Governor who claims to honor the Constitution and abhor the government’s abuse of power, it is past time to end his crusade against the constitutional rights of the people of Florida.”

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