Friday, September 9, 2011

Navy veteran sues over welfare urinalysis

Orlando – Luis Lebron ran out of money in his pursuit of his dream – an accounting degree.

A Navy veteran, Mr. Lebron lost his job in 2008 due to the housing cruch. He's been unable to get a job ever since.

When his veterans benefits ran out, he needed an income to help care for his 4-year-old son and mentally incapacitated mother. He applied for federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

He soon learned he would be required to pay for urinalysis testing to prove that he is not using illicit street drugs. Under a new Florida law approved by the Governor in May, if an applicant's test results come back negative, he is reimbursed for the expense.

Mr. Lebron didn't go to the lab. He went to the law office. The American Civil Liberties Union agreed to file suit on his behalf in U.S. District Court.

He and his attorneys allege that the law represents a form of unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Under the provisions of the 4th Amendment, search and seizure of a person's property, papers and person may be done only after a search warrant is obtained, and then only after an affidavit of probable cause has been presented to a magistrate in support of the warrant of search.

The Florida law, and others requiring pre-employment, post-accident, and random analysis for street drugs makes no such distinction. Under the terms of those laws, a person must first submit to testing to prove that he is not under the influence of illicit drugs. The burden of proof is removed from the equation set up by the 5th Amendment, which provides a guarantee that person may not be compelled to testify or present evidence of his innocence.

Mr. Lebron's lawsuit complaiins that those required to submit to testing are forced to prove their innocence prior to being accused of any wrongdoing.

The “interrogative” style of the Florida requirement is unconstitutional, according to Howard Simon, Florida director of the ACLU.

By insisting on the adherence to the law, Republican Governor Rick Scott is “exploiting a stereotype,” said Mr. Simon. “He didn't say, 'We are wow addressing a problem; we are now addressing a need in the state of Florida.' He said he's fulfilling a campaign pledge...There are some governors who lead, and there are some that pander to prejudice for political gain.”

Florida enacted a statute which requires similar testing for all state employees earlier this year.

Mr. Lebron is unimpressed.

“It's insulting and degrading that people think I'm using drugs just because I need a little help to take care of my family while I finish up my education,” he said.

“I felt like, I served my country for four years; doesn't that mean anything anymore? I've worked for pretty good companies. I'm going to school; I'm supposed to graduate. I shouldn't be in this position.”

The Governor disagrees. He said, “While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction. This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars.”

1 comment:

  1. i agree and i don't understand how it's a 4th amendment violation.. he will not lose any of his rights as a U.S. citzen.. welfare isn't a right its a privledge.. don't mistake the following statement as i am saying he is guilty but everyone that i know personally that get any type of public assistance minus 2 people use drugs.. the irs and welfare agencies need to get involved also because there are a lot of people that recieve benifits then at the end of the year allow a relative or friend to carry their dependents claiming they provided over half of the financial care for the child throughout the year yet the parent doesn't report the support to the public assistance office as required.. if the child's social security number shows up benifits should be stopped