ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The state of Florida revealed Thursday that it will appeal a judge's injunction blocking a new law that requires drug testing of welfare applicants.
The state Department of Children & Families filed a notice of appeal in federal court in Orlando, just over a week after a federal judge temporarily issued the injunction prohibiting enforcement of the new law. The law is championed by Gov. Rick Scott.
U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven said the law may violate the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The injunction prohibits drug testing until a full hearing can be heard. The judge also said there was a good chance plaintiff Luis Lebron would succeed in his challenge to the law.
Lebron, a 35-year-old Navy veteran and single father, sought the welfare benefits while finishing his college degree, but he refused to submit to a drug test. He filed a lawsuit challenging the law with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. In a statement, the ACLU said it would fight the appeal.
"Being poor is not a crime, and the state should not treat poor Floridians like suspected criminals," said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.
More than two dozen states have also proposed drug-testing recipients of welfare or other government assistance, but Florida was the first state to enact such a law in more than a decade. Under the Florida law, those who test positive for drugs are ineligible for the cash assistance for one year, though passing a drug course can cut that period in half. If they fail a second time, they are ineligible for three years.
Earlier this year, Scott also ordered drug testing of new state workers and spot checks of existing state employees under him. But testing was suspended after the American Civil Liberties Union also challenged that policy in a separate lawsuit. In a statement, Gov. Rick Scott said he has no doubts the drug testing of welfare applicants is constitutional.
"The court erred in rejecting the state's arguments, and was unjustified in blocking the will of the people's elected representatives," Scott said.
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