A federal judge ruled that a 2011 Florida law requiring welfare applicants to undergo drug tests is unconstitutional, striking a blow to Gov. Rick Scott over the controversial tests, reports the News Service of Florida. Scott said he would appeal U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven’s ruling, the latest defeat for the governor in a drawn-out battle over drug testing some of Florida’s poorest residents. Scriven ruled that the urine tests violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. She concluded that “there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied.” Scott, who used the tests as a campaign issue, insists they are needed to make sure poor children don’t grow up in drug-riddled households.
“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child. 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,” Scott said. At Scott’s urging in 2011, the legislature required all applicants seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” — the “poorest of the poor” — to undergo the urine tests. Applicants had to pay for the tests, which cost about $35, up front and were to have been reimbursed if they did not test positive. Said the judge: “In sum, there simply is no competent evidence offered on this record of the sort of pervasive drug problem the State envisioned in the promulgation of this statute,” she wrote.