Federal Judge Strikes Key West’s Mandatory Drug Testing Policy

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A federal judge struck down another policy in Florida mandating drug testing. In this case, it was the city of Key West that required drug testing of all applicants for employment. The city’s policy barred Karen Cabanas Voss from consideration for a Solid Waste Coordinator position after she refused to take a drug test.

But U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King held that the policy violated the Fourth Amendment, reiterating many other court rulings that have deemed blanket government drug testing policies unconstitutional.

“[T]here is no evidence in the record showing a serious problem of drug abuse amongst applicants for employment with the City, or even amongst City employees generally, which might serve to confirm the City’s assertion of a special need for a suspicion-less drug testing regime and justify a departure from the Fourth Amendment’s usual requirement of individualized suspicion,” King wrote. “Accordingly, the City’s symbolic interest in the ‘safe, effective and efficient delivery of public services’ is insufficient to justify the intrusion on Plaintiff s rights under the Fourth Amendment.”

The ruling is the third in the past year to invalidate drug testing policies in Florida. Last May, a federal appeals court invalidated a state-wide requirement that Florida employees be subjected to random drug testing. And in late December, a federal judge struck down blanket drug testing of Florida’s welfare applicants.

Drug testing is considered a “search” under the Fourth Amendment and requires reasonable suspicion that an individual is guilty of a crime. Courts have carved out a limited exception for instances when public safety risk is high. Employees who use heavy machinery, for example, may be subject to drug testing. In each of these cases, the courts have noted that there is little evidence of a relationship between drug use or abuse and the targeted programs that would trigger public safety concerns.

Reviews of these policies suggest they waste money and time. But that hasn’t stopped the recent push to impose new drug-testing policies, backed by ALEC and Big Pharma.