What Qualifications May a State Place on the Receipt of Benefits?

Drug Test? Who? Me?

This question comes up repeatedly, and in the context of the Florida law requiring drug testing for the recipients of public assistance, it’s become a point of controversy.  As I reported Monday, a Federal judge has temporarily suspended the Florida law pending further review.  My opinion on that judge’s competence aside, I wish to understand the nature of the mindset that leads a person to believe they have an entitlement to “benefits” or assistance from the public treasury without some reasonable expectation that they are waiving certain claims to privacy.  The Florida judge raised the 4th Amendment’s protections, but I submit to you that there is no 4th Amendment issue in play.

I simply don’t understand how people are able to concoct legal justifications that have no basis in fact or in law.  Here is the text of the 4th Amendment:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Obviously, it is the contention of the ACLU in this Florida case that the requirement for drug-testing to receive assistance constitutes a 4th Amendment violation of the right of the plaintiff to be secure in his person from unreasonable search.   This is a nonsensical claim, however.  This is not a qualified search, because the applicant is not being required to submit to the search(drug test.) He simply won’t get the “benefits” or assistance. End of story. Full stop. A search, to be covered under the 4th Amendment, must be a compulsory search.  Period.  What the Florida law requires in this case is that to complete your application for assistance, you must consent to the search(drug test.) You are not legally required to apply for “benefits” or assistance.  You can walk down the street to your church, or go ask your family for help, or any number of things, but it isn’t relevant to the issue at hand.

Case in point: The Federal Government requires employers to submit Social Security Numbers for verification of a person’s qualification to work in the United States on the basis of legal residency.  You are not required by law to furnish your social security number to a prospective employer, unless you want the job.  Some spiffy ACLU attorney could certainly go make that case, but I doubt that will happen, since it doesn’t fit the agenda of the communistic ACLU.

Of course, going back to the application for public assistance, I wonder why the ACLU doesn’t argue that there’s a Fourth Amendment issue in terms of other qualifications as well.  After all, the fourth amendment guarantees you the right to be free from search and seizures not only of your person and property, but also your effects.  Why does this matter?  In most jurisdictions, Florida included, applicants for assistance are required to furnish copies of their 1040’s, and to demonstrate their impoverished state by virtue of a lack of income.  To establish this lacking, they are required to furnish documentation that can be verified and qualified.

Why don’t they make the argument that the income verification requirement for assistance also subjects applicants to an unreasonable search?  No answer.  This sort of stupidity can be extended indefinitely, but the simplest form of an answer to all of this remains: This is not a fourth amendment issue by virtue of the fact that one’s application for assistance (or “benefits”) is entirely voluntary.  End of story. End of hunt. NEXT!

Please, by all means, feel free to explain to me how this is a Fourth Amendment issue once you include the fact that the application for assistance is voluntary.  If you can’t do that, you’re barking up the wrong tree, and I suggest that you and your ACLU pals go back to finding other unique ways in which to undermine both the letter and spirit of the Constitution.  This issue is resolved, irrespective of the legal meanderings of a dunderhead Federal judge.

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3 Responses to What Qualifications May a State Place on the Receipt of Benefits?

  1. Kells Bells says:

    Thank you, drive thru! Spot on, luv.

  2. gramifran says:

    If the ACLU wins it will open a pandora's box. Employee drug testing and physical exams, credit checks for employment, home rental, buying a car etc., alcohol check points and the list goes on and on and on and on.

    • ReaganTMan says:

      The spirit of the law is designed to protect citizens from unreasonable search and SEIZURE of property or person. Stopping your car without probable cause with the possibility of imprisonment is different than denying someone a job because they fail a drug test or denying someone public assistance.

      The correct way to view this is to ask yourself does the government or the employer have a right to take something from you due to unreasonable search and seizure. You never had the job or the public assistance before entering the process so therefore nothing is taken from you in an unreasonable fashion.

      It's totally reasonable to deny people things that they don't qualify for.

      If you are searched in your car, or what is defined here as "effects" and taken to prison because the search occurred without probable cause, that's a violation of your rights. If you are given a drug or alcohol test when you apply for a drivers license and denied the license because of failing the test, that's not. You didn't qualify.

      Probable cause requires a reason to stop you. Weaving, violating a traffic law, etc is why we can lock up drunk drivers, and we should. The person demonstrates they are not properly in control of their vehicle during the course of normal operation. Their behavior creates the probable cause. Checkpoints, on the other hand, are the same as "show me your papers."