Florida Drug Laws for Urine Testing Welfare Recipients

As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have never handled a case in which someone was denied welfare benefits due to a drug test.  Like any other Florida criminal attorneys, I only deal with drug tests in limited circumstances.  I have clients that are in drug court in Duval County.  They must take drug tests as part of their one-year treatment and recovery program.  When they successfully complete the program, their charges are dropped.  This means that someone that was arrested for Jacksonville possession of cocaine or a controlled substance may have the Florida drug charges dropped.  If that is the case, he or she may be able to expunge the FL criminal record.  This is also true for Florida juvenile delinquent charges.  A child that is charged with a Florida juvenile drug crime may attend EPIC in St. Johns County or a similar program.  Once the program is completed, he or she may be able to expunge the Florida record that shows this crime.  However, he or she will be drug tested.  The child will need to pass these urine tests.

A urine test is also used during probation.  If someone is placed on probation in Clay County for Florida possession of marijuana, random urinalysis may be a condition of probation.  If you fail a drug test, you could be charged with a Florida probation violation.  Urine tests are also used in Duval County for pretrial services.  This is known as PTS and it is used as a bond condition.  The judge may reduce defendants bonds or release them on their own recognizances, so long as they comply with PTS.  Urine tests are sometimes used in Jacksonville driving under the influence cases.  You may be arrested for DUI if you are driving while under the influence of a certain drug and your cognitive functions are impaired.

When it comes to being a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, a positive urine test is not a concern unless you client falls into a scenario above or something similar.  Basically, you are not going to be arrested for possession of a drug just because it is in your system.   You could pick a random person off the street.  Drug test the person.  Even if he fails the test, you cannot arrest him.  If he is on probation or something similar, that is a different story.

Florida Drug Law for Welfare

11th Circuit Prohibits Drug Test

I am bringing up Florida drug laws due to the fact that our laws have entered the national spotlight.  When you think of urine tests, you think of someone breaking law in some way or taking a test for job-related purposes.  Think again.  Our laws are being focused on for a different reason.  Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, signed a bill requiring welfare “benefit recipients to undergo drug testing. Applicants for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program who test positive for illicit substances won’t be eligible for the funds for a year, or until they undergo treatment. Those who fail a second time would be banned from receiving the funds for three years. ‘While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction,’ Scott said. ‘This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars.’”  (nydailynews.com)

Florida’s welfare drug testing law went before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The federal appellate court “refused to lift an injunction against a 2011 Florida law that would require drug tests for people seeking public-assistance benefits, spurring Gov. Rick Scott to vow an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.”  The appellate court reasoned that Florida “had not shown a ‘special need’ for drug testing applicants for the program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, referred to as TANF. It upheld a preliminary injunction issued in 2011 by U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven.”

The 11th circuit court of appeals ruled that the lower court was correct.  “The district court found, the state failed to offer any factual support or to present any empirical evidence of a ‘concrete danger’ of illegal drug use within Florida’s TANF population.” The court further explained that “the evidence in this record does not suggest that the population of TANF recipients engages in illegal drug use or that they misappropriate government funds for drugs at the expense of their own and their children’s basic subsistence. The state has presented no evidence that simply because an applicant for TANF benefits is having financial problems, he is also drug addicted or prone to fraudulent and neglectful behavior.” (Jacksonville Daily Record)

There have been reports that “required drug tests for people seeking welfare benefits ended up costing taxpayers more than it saved and failed to curb the number of prospective applicants, data used against the state in an ongoing legal battle shows.”  (Miami Herald)

About Cynthia, 20 Miles Law

Cynthia Veintemillas

Jacksonville Criminal Lawyer Cynthia Veintemillas Photo

Cynthia Veintemillas is an experienced Florida attorney. She began her legal career at the public defender’s office in Jacksonville, Florida. Her primary practice fields include criminal defense, litigation, and family law. She has also represented many people facing foreclosure in Duval County, Clay County, and St. Johns County, Florida.

Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice

  • Florida, 2006
  • South Carolina, 2007
  • Middle District of Florida, 2009

Professional & Bar Association Memberships

  • Florida Bar 
Member Since: 2006
  • South Carolina 
Member Since: 2007
  • Jacksonville Bar 
Member Since: 2008
  • Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

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