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February 26, 2013

Federal Court Strikes Down Florida Law that Requires TANF Recipients to be Drug-Tested

Copycat law in Georgia cannot be implemented as a result of ruling

ATLANTA — Today, a panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously struck down Florida’s law that required people who applied for assistance must submit to drug tests. In so doing, the Court has established a precedent that would prevent a nearly identical law, House Bill 861, that passed in Georgia in 2012 from being implemented.

In their ruling in the case, Lebron v. Secretary, Florida Department of Children and Families, the Court wrote:

“While we recognize that Florida has a significant interest in promoting child welfare, the State has presented no evidence that the general welfare of the children in the TANF program is at greater risk absent its drug testing.”

“There is nothing so special or immediate about the government’s interest in ensuring that TANF recipients are drug free so as to warrant suspension of the Fourth Amendment. The only known and shared characteristic of the individuals who would be subjected to Florida’s mandatory drug testing program is that they are financially needy families with children. Yet, there is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a “concrete danger” that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use....”

“The simple fact of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF applicant of the same constitutional protection from unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy.”

The Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR), an Atlanta –based nonprofit law firm that was poised to challenge Georgia’s law upon implementation, welcomed today’s ruling from the Court.

“We are grateful to the Court for their ruling today that essentially renders Georgia’s law dead in the water,” said Gerry Weber, Senior Attorney at SCHR. "The Court has made it clear that a state may not perform blanket drug tests of one category of people just because there is a vague and ultimately false perception that they are using drugs. That is simply unacceptable – the Constitution requires so much more.”

 

 

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