Florida ACLU challenging state's welfare drug test law

Updated:

ORLANDO, Fla.,None - A federal court judge in Orlando is hearing arguments about the constitutionality of a Florida law that requires state welfare applicants to take drug tests before receiving assistance.
 

The Florida American Civil Liberties Union is arguing against the law Monday and contends that by applying for welfare in Florida, applicants are being forced to forfeit their
constitutional right against unlawful search. The state is being represented by an attorney from the governor's office.
  
The ACLU is asking the judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the law.

The ACLU has sued on behalf of an Orlando Navy veteran, Luis Lebron, who says his civil rights are being violated. He told WFTV this is an invasion of his privacy and said he refuses to take the state's new mandatory drug test to collect benefits. 

Lebron is a single father, a part-time student at the University of Central Florida, and also cares for his disabled mother. 

Lebron and his ACLU attorney said the law is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.They're headed to federal court to challenge the law.
   
“Give Lewis and the other people like him the money they need,” said John Dingfelder, with Florida ACLU. “That's why he asked for the money they need it.  Give it to them while the case is pending.”

The state’s controversial policy became law in July, but WFTV found out the state could actually be losing money.

The test costs applicants about $30, which is reimbursed by the state if the results are negative. A month after the state began the testing, only two applicants in the area had positive drug tests. The other 38 were clean, which means taxpayers reimbursed more than $1,100.   

Meanwhile, the state is probably saving less than $240 a month by refusing benefits to two applicants who tested positive.

The state says the program is as much about principles as it is about money.

“We wanted to ensure that the individuals who are eligible for this benefit are using them for the true, intended purpose of this benefit,” said Carrie Hoeppner, with the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Some state Republicans say a recent figure showing that 2.7 percent of about 2,000 applicants were denied funds after positive tests shows that the program is a deterrent to drug users. A Democratic state senator has proposed legislation to repeal the law.

A recent poll shows a majority of Florida voters support the drug testing law. The Quinnipiac poll released last week shows 71 percent of those surveyed say they support testing welfare applicants, even with state senators and the ACLU working to repeal the law.

Lebron and the ACLU will ask a federal judge to allow applicants to get benefits without drug testing until the case is resolved.  The hearing is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.