ACLU Files Lawsuit Over Welfare Drug Tests

ORLANDO (CBS4) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has filed suit in federal court against a new state law that requires welfare recipients to pass a drug test.

The suit was filed on behalf of a 35-year-old Orlando resident Luis Lebron.

Lebron is a U.S. Navy veteran who has sole custody of his 4-year-old son and cares for his live-in, disabled mother. He’s also a full-time University of Central Florida accounting student who was downsized out of his job in 2008.

With his veteran’s benefits exhausted, Lebron applied for temporary cash assistance in July 2011. The ACLU states he meets all the criteria for assistance but refused to waive his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and submit to the newly required drug test.

“I served my country, I’m in school finishing my education and trying to take care of my son,” Lebron said. “It’s insulting and degrading that people think I’m using drugs just because I need a little help to take care of my family while I finish up my education.”

The drug testing law requires welfare applicants to submit to and pass a urine test for drug use before receiving assistance.

The law also requires applicants to pay for the drug tests first, about $30-$35, and wait to be reimbursed by the state if they pass.

If they fail, they can’t get benefits for at least a year, and could face child abuse charges.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the drug testing bill in May and it became law on July 1st.

“This law violates more than the rights guaranteed by our Constitution – it violates basic American dignity and fairness by assuming that everyone who needs help is a lazy drug abuser,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLUFL. “Ugly, disproven stereotypes make bad laws.”

The ACLU also stated that early results of the drug tests show applicants use drugs at a lower rate than the population as a whole. Data from the Florida Department of Children and Families, which is responsible for implementing the law, shows that since testing began in July, 98-percent of applicants who took the test passed.

A Florida pilot program in 1999-2000 which drug tested applicants found a “failure” rate of about 5-percent. According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, performed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 8.7-percent of the population nationally over age 12 uses illicit drugs.

“Floridians don’t lose their Constitutional rights because they need temporary assistance,” said Randy Berg, Executive Director of the Florida Justice Institute which is co-counsel in suit with the ACLUFL. “It doesn’t matter how popular it is to single out a group of people to make a political statement, the rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply to everyone – even poor people – and everyone has a right to be free of suspicion less government searches.”

The lawsuit names Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins as defendant, since his agency administers welfare benefits and oversees the drug-testing. The suit asks the court to declare the law unconstitutional and stop the state from requiring the drug tests.

“I’m asking the Courts to protect my rights and the rights of other Floridians because this law treats me like a potential criminal for no reason at all,” Lebron said.

A federal court in 2000 ruled that a similar law in Michigan, which had a suspicion less welfare drug-testing law like Florida’s, was unconstitutional.

  • Fedup

    Getting welfare is not a right, consequently recipients of government help MUST prove they deserve the help that we tax payers subsidize. Sec. 8 beneficiaries, placed in our neighborhood, turned out to be drug dealers and consumers. There was a family of a mother and 6 kids that ran a robbery ring. The kids were caught several times breaking into our homes, but because they are minors, they were surrendered to the mother’s care over and over. HUD didn’t care when we complained. Still we had to continue to pay so they could live here. The husband also moved in, despite having reported she was a single parent in order to get assistance. If you’re honest, why not voluntarily accept testing?

    • GetTheFedOut

      fedup Not all people are perverts like you, that like to have strangers stair at there genitals while they urinate into a cup. Some people might find that as a invasion of there privacy. Considering that they also pay the same tax’s that you do and thou’s tax’s are in place to provide help in the case that you might need it ,shouldn’t that be enough to “prove they deserve” ! Plus urine test are antiquated ,someone that has $1000 a month cocaine habit is going to have no problem passing that test seeing how cocaine clears out of your system in 3 day even the most disorganized junkie can foresee into the future and hold off for 3 days

      As for your organized crime family what did you expect the HUD to do, deem the mother as a unfit parent and put the 6 kids in foster care where it’s going to cost the state three times as much tax payer money? I wouldn’t exactly call kids stealing some garden gnomes a “robbery ring” ether.

      Maybe we should be Drug testing the people that are making the Laws !

    • John Koontz

      Let’s just let Big Brother randomly test everybody whenever He feels like it, and bill us idiots whatever He thinks is fair, right, FauxedUp?

  • ImJustSayin

    I’m sorry Mr. Lebron, but if I have to take a drug test so that my tax dollar can fund the government aide you are seeking, then you should be required to take a test to receive it. As Fedup said, welfare is NOT a right! If you don’t like the rules for qualifying for it, then don’t apply for it. Why is it the governments responsibility to help everyone? I wish you much success in everything, but I think taking a drug test is a fair trade for getting free money!! Suck it up.
    And to the ACLU, this law doesn’t single out “poor people” these days there are plenty of non poor people on welfare. Hell, I think I’d be better off if I just stopped working all together too. BTW, I work 50-60 hours a week, go to school full time and have three kids. No, I’m not single, but I would be willing to pee in a cup to get free money and stay home with my kids! Everyone is taking advantage of the system, so maybe I should too.

    • taxpayer just like you!

      They government is for the people, by the people. And excuse me, but my tax dollars are a right to me, if ever I am in need of them. You are not the only one paying taxes. Darling, we all are. I paid taxes before I lost my job, car, house, and means of support. Pay taxes into this economy every day of every month. Best believe their are state and federal taxes on every bill I pay. My body is not subject to search at some bureaucrats whim. I’m not a criminal and to treat every applicant as such, is absurd. For anybody to think that that is anything but humiliating for someone who is already going through a hardship is wonky in the head.


    I demand that ALL Federal, State and Local politicians, LEOs, judges, corrections workers and health-care workers be tested ANNUALLY for illegal drug abuse/use. Their use is legendary, with a ‘wink and a nod’, and is so hypocritical, it’s nauseating. If drug use is the problem at hand, STOP it at the TOP!!! If you just want to find reasons to kick people off welfare, which is what I believe is happening with Redumplicants, JUST KICK THEM OFF FOR NO REASON, you sewer rats!

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