A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a law requiring Florida cash welfare recipients first pass a drug test. The law, enacted in 2011, had been temporarily blocked by a federal judge under grounds that it might constitute an illegal search and seizure.
Of course, the governor isn’t happy:
“Any illegal drug use in a family is harmful and even abusive to a child,” Scott said. “We should have a zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use in families â€“ especially those families who struggle to make ends meet and need welfare assistance to provide for their children. We will continue to fight for Florida children who deserve to live in drug-free homes by appealing this judge’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.”
But of course, the point is that the law is not directed at those who use illegal drugs. It assumes an entire class of people to be acting illegally unless they prove otherwise. And that is offensive to the Constitution.
This simple fact seems to elude so many seemingly intelligent individuals. I have had a lot of friends who support drug testing for welfare recipients, and their argument always goes something like the governor’s… “taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for their drug use…. if they’re going to break the law, they should be tested.”
There are a lot of arguments against testing – it’s not cost-effective, it’s demeaning, it doesn’t really help those who need help, but ultimately, the thing that makes it unacceptable to the Constitution is the simple fact that mandatory suspicionless drug testing by the government is not a reasonable search, which violates the Fourth Amendment.