Gov. Rick Scott of Florida signed a new law in May that requires all applicants for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to submit a urine sample and pass a drug test. Last week, a federal judge in Orlando temporarily enjoined enforcement of that intrusive policy on grounds it violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.
Judge Mary Scriven, a George W. Bush appointee, correctly ruled that the state demonstrated no “special need” for an exception to the Fourth Amendment that would allow drug testing of all aid applicants without any basis for suspicion. She noted that the State Legislature, in approving the law, ignored its own study that found a lower rate of drug usage among applicants for assistance than among Florida’s population as a whole. She also pointed out that the state failed to show that drug testing saved money given the cost of administering the program, and she expressed concern that the tests were a substantial invasion of privacy because the results were available to other government agencies, including law enforcement.