Sunday, April 21, 2013

Welfare - drug-testing - 11th Cir. 2013

Lebron v.   Florida Dept. of Children and Families -  11th Cir. - February 26, 2013

11th Circuit rejected drug testing as a condition of receiving cash assistance in Florida.

State failed to show "special needs" for exception from 4th amendment requirements.

Ordinarily, to be reasonable, a search must be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. . . . "[The Fourth Amendment’s] restraint on government conduct generally bars officials from undertaking a search or seizure absent individualized suspicion."). In most cases, this standard is met only when a search "is accomplished pursuant to a judicial warrant issued upon probable cause." Skinner, 489 U.S. at 619.

However, the Supreme Court has upheld as reasonable searches without a showing of individualized suspicion in certain very limited and exceptional circumstances. See New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 351 (1985) (Blackmun, J., concurring in judgment) (explaining that a court may substitute its own reasonableness balancing for that of the Fourth Amendment’s warrant and probable cause requirement only in those "exceptional circumstances" where special needs have been established). But to establish these limited and exceptional circumstances that justify the suspension of Fourth Amendment protections, the Supreme Court has required the government to make a threshold 

Not only must the government identify the special needs that make the warrant and probable-cause requirement impracticable but it must establish that those special needs are "substantial." See Chandler, 520 U.S at 318 ("Our precedents establish that the proffered special need for drug testing must be substantial."). Only if the government is able to make a showing of substantial special needs will the court thereafter "undertake a context-specific inquiry, examining closely the competing private and public interests advanced by the parties," to determine the reasonableness of the search. Id. at 314; see also T.L.O., 469 U.S. at 351

The question is not whether drug use is detrimental to the goals of the TANF program, which it might be. Instead, the only pertinent inquiry is whether there is a substantial special need for mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of TANF recipients when there is no immediate or direct threat to public safety, when those being searched are not directly involved in the frontlines of drug interdiction, when there is no public school setting where the government has a responsibility for the care and tutelage of its young students, or when there are no dire consequences or grave risk of imminent physical harm as a result of waiting to obtain a warrant if a TANF recipient, or anyone else for that matter, is suspected of violating the law. We conclude that, on this record, the answer to that question of whether there is a substantial special need for mandatory suspicionless drug testing is "no."