Appeals court judges heard oral arguments today on whether Florida should require welfare applicants to pass a drug test before they get assistance.
The hearing, before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, is an important next step in a lawsuit fought hard by Florida and watched by Legislatures all over the nation.
A lower court in Florida ruled in 2011 that the law, promoted and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, violates the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection from suspicionless search. U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven halted enforcement of the law, which made it more difficult to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (known as TANF).
The American Civil Liberties Union of Floida is challenging the law on behalf of Luis Lebron, a Navy veteran and single father living in Orlando who applied for temporary assistance in July 2011.
Here is a statement from Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of the ACLU of Florida and lead counsel in the case.
“We thank the Court of Appeals for the opportunity to argue in defense of the Fourth Amendment rights of TANF applicants. As we stated before the lower court, government cannot treat an entire group of citizens like suspected criminals and subject them to invasive and suspicionless searches without cause. Individuals do not lose their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches simply because they need some extra assistance to make ends meet for their families. We look forward to the court’s decision in this case.”