Judge halts drug tests as condition of Florida payments

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2011 1:59 PM
Judge halts drug tests as condition of Florida payments

By Michael Peltier

TALLAHASSEE, Fla (Reuters) - Florida will not be allowed to require applicants for cash assistance to needy families to pass a drug test before receiving payments, a federal judge rules on Monday.

In a 37-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Scriven in Orlando granted an injunction barring the state from enforcing the new law until the case is resolved.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida on behalf of a University of Central Florida student who refused to take the test when he applied for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, a federal program that provides cash assistance to families with children.

In her ruling, Scriven said the testing procedure could cause irreparable harm to recipients.

Judge Scriven said that an injunction would protect recipients from any harm to their constructional rights while the case is heard.

The new law, a version of which was struck down by a federal court in Michigan in 2003, requires recipients to pay for the tests before qualifying for benefits and periodically after they receive them.

The law was one of Republican Governor Rick Scott's campaign promises. Under the law, recipients who test positive for drugs are denied benefits for a year. A second failed test results in a three-year ban.

Applicants who test positive and complete a drug rehabilitation program could reapply for benefits after six months.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)