Gov. Rick Scott’s Drug Testing Regime for State Employees Declared Unconstitutional
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is obsessed with drugs. Since coming into office, he signed a law requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug tests — a law that was subsequently halted by a federal court — and he issued an executive order mandating random drug tests for state employees. This executive order has now been declared unconstitutional by a George H.W. Bush-appointed judge:
Miami U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro Thursday morning ruling that random, suspicionless testing of some 85,000 workers violates the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures also raises doubts about a new state law quietly signed by Scott this spring allowing the governor’s agency heads to require urine tests of new and existing workers.
“To be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, a search ordinarily must be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing,” Ungaro wrote in her order issued this morning, citing previous U.S. Supreme Court orders which decided that urine tests are considered government searches.
Judge Ungaro’s decision should not be controversial. As she correctly notes, “suspicionless” searches of people who are not individually suspected of committed a crime are rarely acceptable under the Constitution. Nevertheless, these kinds of unconstitutional bills have become the darling of many conservative lawmakers. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) proposed forcing the unemployed to undergo drug tests in order to receive benefits, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R)signed a similar drug testing law in his state.
It’s important to note that these drug-testing laws are not just unconstitutional, they are also completely unnecessary. Only one percent of Florida workers who took drug tests tested positive, and only two percent of state welfare recipients subject to Scott’s other drug testing law failed their drug tests.
Yet, while these tests are both unconstitutional and a solution in search of a problem, there is still some risking that they could be upheld by an increasingly partisan Supreme Court. Current law is clear that these drug laws are unconstitutional, but the Constitution even more conclusively favors the Affordable Care Act. If the justices are willing to put partisan politics ahead of the law and strike down President Obama’s signature accomplishment, there is good reason to fear they will again put politics before the law if Rick Scott’s drug tests come before them.