U.S. Appeals Court upholds decision barring Florida from drug-testing welfare recipients

Gov. Rick Scott campaigned on testing issue

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ATLANTA - A federal appeals court on Tuesday torpedoed another of Florida Gov. Rick Scott's campaign promises -- mandatory suspicionless drug testing of all welfare recipients.

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta unanimously found that the state has failed to show a "special need" that would allow it to infringe on the constitutional rights of recipients of public assistance.

The lawsuit was brought by Luis W. Lebron, a University of Central Florida student, Navy veteran and single, unmarried father living and caring for his disabled mother who was seeking a maximum of $241 a month from the state to help him care for his son.

He refused to take the mandatory drug test, saying it violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

While not ruling on the merits underlying the case, the appellate court found the U.S. District Court judge did not abuse its discretion when it granted a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing the May 2011 law while the lawsuit proceeds.

"The state failed to offer any factual support or to present any empirical evidence of a 'concrete danger' of illegal drug use" among Florida welfare recipients, the court noted.

The decision means the injunction against the state remains in force -- that drug testing is suspended -- while it continues to litigate the issue in the District Court.

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