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Judge strikes down 'suspicionless' drug testing of Florida state workers

A federal judge's ruling strikes down Florida's first-in-the-nation drug testing law – and could give pause to other states considering suspicionless drug testing of state workers or others receiving state funds.

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A federal judge in Florida did not buy GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s argument that drug testing state employees without suspicion of drug use is legal and benefits everybody, ruling on Thursday that the law – the first of its kind in the nation – doesn’t comprise a “reasonable” search under the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

Miami-based US District Judge Ursula Ungaro applied a similar line of reasoning as the US Supreme Court did in a 1997 Georgia case challenging drug testing of political candidates, in which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority that “suspicionless” drug testing "diminishes personal privacy for a symbol's sake.”

“The Governor's reasoning is hardly transparent and frankly obscure," Judge Ungaro wrote in her Thursday ruling. "He offers no plausible rationale explaining why the fact that a state employee's work product and financial status are publicly accessible leads to the conclusion that the employee's expectation of privacy in his or her bodily functions and fluids is then diminished."

Florida is the tip of the spear for a number of new Republican measures in several states to drug test beneficiaries of taxpayer dollars. The state last year mandated drug testing for welfare beneficiaries, though it suspended that program pending a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

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