Drug-testing of welfare applicants violates Constitution

Today, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously to bar the state of Florida from forcing welfare applicants to undergo drug testing.

As the judges found:

“… the State failed to offer any factual support or to present any empirical evidence of a “concrete danger” of illegal drug use within Florida’s TANF population. The evidence in this record does not suggest that the population of TANF recipients engages in illegal drug use or that they misappropriate government funds for drugs at the expense of their own and their children’s basic subsistence. The State has presented no evidence that simply because an applicant for TANF benefits is having financial problems, he is also drug-addicted or prone to fraudulent and neglectful behavior.”

Exactly right. The state failed to offer “any factual support or to present any empirical evidence,” because no such evidence exists. As the judges went on to note, “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.”

Nothing, that is, except deeply cherished stereotypes and a penchant for bashing poor people.

The bill creating the mandatory drug-testing provision comes out of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Last year, the Georgia General Assembly passed a similar bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal signed even though the Florida law had already been suspended by a federal district court judge. In fact, the Georgia law was so blatantly unconstitutional — and such a clear case of showboating and scapegoating — that Deal himself “suspended” its enforcement until the courts could rule on the matter.

Such laws are motivated by a cruel desire to bash and denigrate the poor, without regard to evidence or civil rights. If legislators had been truly concerned about the wise use of tax dollars, they could have mandated that HOPE scholarship recipients be drug-tested before receiving benefits, or that corporate CEOs be drug-tested before their companies could be eligible for major economic-development packages. The same logic would have applied.

But of course such thoughts never entered their minds.

– Jay Bookman

629 comments Add your comment

Welcome to the Occupation

February 26th, 2013
5:04 pm

Class of ‘98: “I assume you are talking about Mitt Romney and Massachusetts. / Are you familiar with the concept of Federalism?”

Are you saying conservatism always elevates federalism to the highest principle in every case?

The ACA was of course the product of a conservative think tank. Which is one reason Barack Obama is just fine with it of course — being the conservative he basically is.

JamVet

February 26th, 2013
5:04 pm

GG, thanks for the update.

That will certainly crank up a brand new round of Hagelophobia!

LOL.

TBS…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9SMXkpowo0

Brosephus™ - Desktop but still Multitasking

February 26th, 2013
5:05 pm

The 11th Circuit referred to Wyman, pp. 318ff in its decision, as providing possible legal grounds for the Florida law not used in the state’s argument before the court.

An in-home visit still does not equate to someone having to give a sample for a drug test. Regardless to what they quoted, the government can not compel a 4th Amendment search without probable cause. That’s why you have to get a warrant to obtain DNA samples unless the person voluntarily gives one. Legislating a drug test to get a benefit is NOT making it a voluntary donation.

Joe Hussein Mama

February 26th, 2013
5:07 pm

Theophilus — “Google can be a good tool. Why don’t you try it sometime?”

Because it’s not my job to find cons’ evidence for them, that’s why.

“You are one of the few people I have encountered questioning fraud in the program.”

I haven’t questioned fraud in the program here at all. I’ve pointed out that the complaints and objections of many of the cons here are based in guesswork, supposition and prejudice, but I haven’t questioned that fraud is in the program. I’ve simply pointed out that y’all have no hard evidence supporting the specific claims of fraud that you’ve made.

“I have read it.”

Good. Then complain in that direction.

“I do.”

Then stick the the topic and stop engaging in pivots.

“You should get out of your mental straight-jacket”

If you’re not capable to keeping your focus on the discussion at hand, that;’s neither my fault nor my problem.

“and recognize that tangential discussions invariably arise in a debate about a topic such as that addressed by Mr. Bookman’s column.”

If you want to engage in a tangential discussion, don’t demand that your discussion partners go with you on a ride on the Attention Deficit Disorder train. Be clear about your intentions and what you’re trying to do with the discussion, rather than switching examples out of convenience.

UNCLE SAMANTHA

February 26th, 2013
5:07 pm

Legislating a drug test to get a benefit is NOT making it a voluntary donation.

BUT MAKING NOT TAKING THE DRUG TEST A TAX PENALTY IS LEGAL AND CAN REDUCE THE BENEFITS IN THE FORM OF A TAX PENTALTY

Joe Hussein Mama

February 26th, 2013
5:08 pm

indigo — “Joe – 2:48 And where are those poor people getting the money to buy their drugs?”

Once again, who says they’re using money?

tbs

February 26th, 2013
5:09 pm

josef

February 26th, 2013
5:10 pm

tbs

February 26th, 2013
5:11 pm

JHM @ 5:07

Puppet names may change, but his game is always the same

You know that

:-)

tireofit

February 26th, 2013
5:11 pm

I demand monthly drug tests (full panel screen) of all elected officials with results made available to the public. Otherwise, F these people!

Brosephus™ - Desktop but still Multitasking

February 26th, 2013
5:12 pm

I’m checking out for a while. Dealing with sock puppets and name changers is tiring. Y’all have fun!!

Joe Hussein Mama

February 26th, 2013
5:13 pm

tbs — “Puppet names may change, but his game is always the same”

“You know that”

Ayup. He gets more and more obvious every time he posts.

Give it up, Townwhiner. You need more than a different handle; you need an entire schtick transplant.

Real Scootter

February 26th, 2013
5:17 pm

Once again, who says they’re using money?

JHM,at the risk of sounding really stooopit,what else would they use?

JamVet

February 26th, 2013
5:25 pm

…schtick transplant.

BWAHAHAHAHA!

But, given his plethora of recent nom de blogues, the spinectomy was a huge success!

Welcome to the Occupation

February 26th, 2013
6:19 pm

Class of ‘98: “’m far from an anarchist, and think letting the states be their own little laboratories was actually a GOOD idea”

I don’t.

Stacy Goble

February 26th, 2013
7:10 pm

It is ok for me to pee in a cup in order for me to keep my job so I can give 15% of what I make to the Gov’t. So in turn they can turn around and give it away to who they deem deserving!! People if peeing in a cup offends you find a way to earn a living other than walking to the mailbox once a month!!! American’s are becoming the laziest bunch of peeps on earth!!

Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (aka "Knuckle-Dragger")

February 26th, 2013
9:11 pm

So you can kill not-yet-born children, but can not drug-test welfare recipients? We live in a strange place.

[...] Federal Court Says Florida Testing Welfare Recipients For Drugs Is Unconstitutional This is a really interesting story for a couple reasons, and I hope you share in my fascination [...]

Leigh

February 26th, 2013
10:55 pm

Mr. Bookman, the title of this article is misleading. This case affirmed the lower court’s preliminary injunction. The court DID NOT make a finding on the constitutionality of drug testing.

Joe Hussein Mama

February 27th, 2013
9:11 am

Scootter — “JHM,at the risk of sounding really stooopit,what else would they use?”

Services. I’m being completely serious here.

Jimmy agrees to be a lookout for the dealers. He also agrees to be paid in drugs.

Ronnie agrees to be a courier for drugs and money, and also agrees to be paid in drugs.

Sally agrees to . . . ahem . . . service the dealers in exchange for drugs.

Any of those scenarios sound plausible to you?

Michael

February 27th, 2013
10:21 am

The argument is sound but further examples to justify the decision by the author are laughable. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we need to help those that have fallen on hard times but to require certain behavior for that help is not a violation of someone rights. CEO’s answer to the stockholders and yes in many corporation you must submit to drug testing to get a job. Two, it is taxpayer money. I don’t think peeing in a cup is that big of a deal to get help from the government. I had to pee in a cup to get my job and become a taxpayer and pay into the welfare system, therefore a recipient should pee to get the benefits out.

Jason

February 27th, 2013
10:29 am

So, let me get this straight. All we need is evidence? I personally know three (out of four) food stamp recipients who will gladly sell you their Ohio food stamp card at half price so they can go get drugs. If I can gather that much evidence in the 10 years that I lived in Springfield, I’m sure a study can be done to come up with a much larger sample. Give ‘em time kiddos, they’ll have your empirical evidence on a mirror with rolled $1 bills and a razor blade.

Joe Hussein Mama

February 27th, 2013
10:57 am

Jason — “So, let me get this straight. All we need is evidence? I personally know three (out of four) food stamp recipients who will gladly sell you their Ohio food stamp card at half price so they can go get drugs”

If you’re directly aware of that sort of fraud taking place, then I encourage you to report it immediately to the proper authorities and provide them with whatever information you possibly can.

SwamiDave

February 27th, 2013
11:58 am

Jay:

“They are required to do so as a condition of PRIVATE employment. Under the U.S. Constitution, it is something else entirely when the government requires it. It is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against warrantless searches and seizures.”

This would be required as a condition of receipt of a government benefit. There is no government requirement that all citizens be subjected to the drug testing. It is a requirement for receipt of an unearned benefit. Individuals have the choice whether they wish to participate & therefore, control whether or not they are obligated to do it.

Simply – Don’t want to take the drug test – Dont expect taxpayers to give you transfer payments.

-SD

catlady

February 27th, 2013
3:06 pm

Well, if they want to test welfare recepients, they must also test SS recepients, Medicare recepients, student loan and Pell Grant recepients, and anyone else who has money funneled to them through the state or federal government. THEN let’s talk about it. Oh, you say the SS and Medicare recepients “PAID” for theirs? Not as much as they gain. Unless I am dead by 67, the government is losing money on me.

theccur

February 27th, 2013
4:35 pm

IF people want OUR cash, the should have to show that they are using it for it’s intended purpose, NOT for drugs. Welfare is a entitlement program, not a right. BUT, it ISN’T our money, it’s the governments money. The government merely condescends to let us keep a portion of it.

Joe Hussein Mama

February 27th, 2013
5:10 pm

theccur — “IF people want OUR cash, the should have to show that they are using it for it’s intended purpose, NOT for drugs.”

If you want to deny people those benefits, then show that they’re using it for drugs instead of for its intended purpose.

Innocent until proven guilty.

Jim Turner

February 27th, 2013
5:11 pm

So….if you go out and work for a living you can be legally drug tested with no proof that the “group of workers” is more likely to use drugs BUT if you don’t work and get a government check you can’t be tested because there is no proof that the “group of non-workers” is more likely to use drugs. There you go again Jay with that liberal logic.

majii

February 28th, 2013
11:24 pm

“In the four months that Florida’s law was in place, the state drug tested 4,086 TANF applicants. A mere 108 individuals tested positive. To put it another way, only 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive for illegal drugs — a rate more than three times lower than the 8.13 percent of all Floridians, age 12 and up, estimated by the federal government to use illegal drugs. Now might be a good time to remind folks that in the debate over the bill, Gov. Rick Scott argued that this law was necessary because, he said, welfare recipients used drugs at a higher rate than the general population.”

http://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform-racial-justice/just-we-suspected-florida-saved-nothing-drug-testing-welfare

“Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data… From July through October in Florida — the four months when testing took place before Judge Scriven’s order — 2.6 percent of the state’s cash assistance applicants failed the drug test, or 108 of 4,086, according to the figures from the state obtained by the group. The most common reason was marijuana use. An additional 40 people canceled the tests without taking them.

Because the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test, Mr. Newton said. As a result, the testing cost the government an extra $45,780, he said.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/us/no-savings-found-in-florida-welfare-drug-tests.html?ref=us