State welfare drug test law may hit constitutional snags - CBS46 News

State welfare drug test law may hit constitutional snags

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A U.S. District court judge ruled against a Florida law that requires welfare applicants to pass drug tests, throwing into question the fate of a similar law in Georgia.

Judge Mary Scriven said the Florida law violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

"There is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied," Scriven concluded in a 30-page decision.

Georgia law mandates new welfare applicants must pass a drug test to receive benefits. The state of Georgia never enforced the measure as officials waited on the outcome of the Florida decision.

Constitutional law expert Page Pate said the Florida ruling means the Georgia law will have a tough time withstanding legal scrutiny.

"Any case that's been decided by that court of appeals applies to Georgia, Florida and Alabama. It's the same law. It's the same court of appeals," Pate said. "I don't think they can enforce it."

The decision represents an argument made by supporters of the impoverished, that welfare recipients are no more prone to using drugs than anyone else.

"Research found a lower rate of drug usage among TANF applicants than among current estimates of the population of Florida as a whole," the decision said.

Cynthia Davis, a mother of three dependent children, received temporary assistance for needy families, or TANF, from 2006 through 2009.

Davis said she never did drugs and never gave any reason to suspect that she ever did.

"That's a violation of my rights," Davis said of the Georgia law. "There are some people who take pride in not being on drugs and I'm one of them."

State Sen. John Albers, who championed the law, called the ruling "disappointing and not consistent with the values of America."

Albers said the laws in Georgia and Florida are "similar but not identical. We will research the decision and the impact on Georgia."

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