Opponents of the law have argued it was an unconstitutional search and seizure. The judge agreed, writing that there was no pervasive drug problem among applicants for welfare benefits.
Florida Governor Rick Scott had backed the drug testing of prospective welfare recipients, arguing it helped protect taxpayers and families. He said in a statement that his administration would appeal the court’s decision.
Two states this year – North Dakota and Virginia – rejected bills that would have mandated drug testing for welfare recipients. Those measures would have cost between $400,000 and $500,000.
Last August, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory vetoed a drug testing bill, saying it was too costly and ineffective. Lawmakers overrode his decision, but McCrory vowed not to implement the law until legislators appropriated enough money to pay for the program.
Supporters of drug testing insist that the measures are really about changing behaviors. “Benefit payments that have been wasted on drug abusers will be available for the truly needy,” says Oklahoma State Rep. Guy Liebmann, “and addicts will be incentivized to get treatment.”
Opponents say it’s not that simple. Welfare “recipients have only committed the crime of poverty. There is no reason to suspect them of drug use simply for needing assistance, and no reason to penalize the children for their parents' sins,” said Matthew Bodie a professor and associate dean at Saint Louis University School of Law.
(Image: itsmejust /Getty Images)
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at www.mattmangino.com and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino. His book The Executioner's Toll, 2010 is due out this summer.