ACLU Opposed to Welfare Drug Testing

The ACLU of Indiana is opposed to legislation requiring drug screening for people on public assistance, claiming the practice is “unconstitutional” despite recent changes.

Lawmakers removed a provision from House Bill 1351 that would have required everyone who applies for “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” to undergo drug screening. However, it still would require anyone with a misdemeanor drug conviction in the past ten years to be drug-tested annually while receiving assistance. ACLU of Indiana executive director Jane Henegar said that intrudes on an individual’s right to privacy.

“Just because someone is need of financial assistance,” she said, “that is no reason to strip them of their rights.”

Prior convictions aren’t enough for probable cause for drug testing and could violate protections against “unreasonable search and seizure,” she said.

The bill is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further review. About 25,000 Indiana residents a month receive TANF funds. Several other states have passed or are considering similar legislation, but Henegar said it’s often short- lived. In Florida, a federal judge ruled the drug-testing law was unconstitutional, and Heneger said it ended up costing the state more than it was worth.

“Florida is a good example where it was extremely expensive to administer, and yet had very little impact,” she said. “It’s a very blunt instrument and a very inefficient tool.”

Before the change was made to HB 1351, a report from the Legislative Services Agency estimated it would have cost Indiana more than $1 million to implement the drug-testing program.