Law Requiring Drug Testing of Parents Is Voided

Law Requiring Drug Testing of Parents Is Voided
Posted by CN Staff on April 10, 2003 at 17:39:40 PT
By Adam Liptak
Source: New York Times 
The federal appeals court in Cincinnati has struck down a Michigan statute that required drug testing for parents who apply for or receive welfare benefits.The law, authorized but not required by federal welfare legislation in 1996, was the nation's first and most comprehensive effort to condition welfare payments on drug testing. Only needy families with children or expecting them were eligible for the benefits in question. All applicants were subject to testing, and 20 percent of recipients were to be randomly tested every six months. 
The law went into effect in 1999 but was quickly blocked by a federal judge. The judge, Victoria A. Roberts, ruled that the testing violated the Constitution because it did not fit into "the closely guarded category of constitutionally permissible suspicionless testing," which generally requires a threat to public safety.State officials argued that the need to protect children and to encourage welfare recipients to seek work justified the testing program.A three-judge panel of the appeals court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, accepted those arguments and reversed Judge Roberts's decision in October. It held that welfare recipients have a diminished expectation of privacy and are free to decline the benefits if they do not wish to be tested.The latest decision, by the full appeals court, was issued on Monday. The court's 12 judges were evenly split, which means, under the court's rules, that Judge Roberts's decision was automatically affirmed. Monday's two-page order contained no reasoning but noted that "members of the court may file separate opinions if they wish." There have been no such opinions so far.A lawyer for the state did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.Graham Boyd, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Drug Policy Litigation Project, which represented the plaintiffs, said Judge Roberts's decision drew an appropriate line. Had the Michigan law been sustained, he said, its logic "could certainly apply to driver's licenses, student loans and the exemption for children on your tax return."Earlier cases in other contexts allowed drug testing without particular suspicion if the people involved worked in sensitive jobs. The courts have ruled that bus drivers, railroad employees, police officers, firefighters and customs agents may be tested but that candidates for office may not. The courts have held, though, that many students may be tested even though there is no particular reason to suspect them of using drugs. Complete Title: Law Requiring Drug Testing of Welfare Parents Is VoidedSource: New York Times (NY)Author:  Adam LiptakPublished: April 10, 2003 Copyright: 2003 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters Website: Articles & Web Site:ACLU Hails Ruling on Welfare Drug Tests Urine Is It? - New York Times Tests For Welfare Recipients Upheld 
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