A controversial Florida law is currently being challenged before a federal appeals court. The state law aims to withhold benefits from welfare applicants who may be guilty of certain drug crimes by requiring that they purchase and pass a drug screening test before they may be granted food stamps, child care subsidies and other welfare benefits.
The law is being challenged on the grounds that these mandatory drug tests amount to illegal bodily search and seizure actions which are prohibited by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
At present, this drug testing law is being temporarily suspended due to the challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. A lower court judge acknowledged that the testing may be unconstitutional and therefore the law will not resume effect if and until the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals orders it to be reenacted.
At this stage in the challenge process, the 11th Circuit could order the law back into effect pending a ruling on the larger constitutional issue, or it could order that the temporary suspension remain in place.
Advocates of the law argue that welfare recipients who use drugs should not be granted assistance meant to be temporary in nature. If the goal of assistance is child welfare and family stability during times of temporary hardship, drug use by recipients would undermine these goals.
Opponents of the law insist that welfare recipients do not utilize drugs in higher numbers than the general population. They also argue that regardless of poor decision making by applicants, the drug testing is unconstitutional and must be overturned, period.
Only time will tell how the federal appellate court will rule. Hopefully however, the rights of all welfare applicants will ultimately be respected during the application process.