| Read Time: < 1 minute | Drug Charges

Florida drug test law for welfare recipients challenged

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.

Continue Reading

| Read Time: < 1 minute | Fourth Amendment

Mandatory Drug Testing for State Employees ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Miami has ruled that the mandatory drug testing of government employees pursuant to Governor Scott’s Executive Order is unconstitutional.  You can read Judge Ungaro’s opinion here. The Judge ruled that requiring drug testing of government employees violated the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which prohibited unreasonable searches and seizures.  Judge Ungaro wrote that “The fundamental flaw with the Executive Order is that it infringes privacy interests in pursuit of a public interest which, in contrast to the concrete and carefully defined concerns inSkinner, Nat’l Treasury, and Vernonia, is insubstantial and largely speculative. So what does all this mean?  Well the trial judge ruled that Governor Scott’s executive order was unconstitutional.  The judge ruled that the privacy interest were more important then the public interest, which was the goal of the order. Call this one a score for protecting the Fourth Amendment and not allowing the government to infringe upon our private lives.

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 2 minutes | Prison & Sentencing

Florida Legislature Passes Bill That Would Allow Early Release

The Florida Legislature has passed a bill that would allow for prison sentence modification.  Both the House and Senate, has passed bills that would allow for the early release of prisoners held for non-violent offenses.  The bill creates a new law that requires the Florida Department of Corrections to develop a reentry program designed to allow nonviolent offenders to have their incarceration reduced  by allowing them to participate in an intensive substance abuse treatment program. The reentry program must include prison-based substance abuse treatment, general education development and adult basic education courses. The program must also include vocational training and decision making and personal development training. In order to qualify for the program the prisoner must meet certain criteria. They must be nonviolent offender which has been defined as a third degree felony offense that is not a forcible felony.  The prisoner must have completed at least half of their sentence and they must have been identified as having the need for substance abuse treatment. If the nonviolent offender meets the eligibility requirements, the department of corrections must then notify the sentencing court and get their approval for participation in the program.  The state attorney is also notified and may file a written objection for the prisoner’s participation in the program. The prisoner must complete at least six months in the reentry program and if they complete the program then the sentencing judge may order a modification of the sentence to include drug offender probation.  If the offender violates the probation then the court may revoke probation and impose any legal sentence that they see fit. It seems as though the Florida legislature is finally realizing that addicts needs rehabilitation and not just punishment.  A person who is able to cope with their addiction is less likely to reoffend and will save the tax payers money by reducing recidivism.

Continue Reading