In 1996, Congress considered situations of children like Michael Oher when they overhauled the welfare program through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). One of the PRWORA’s goals is to protect children in homes receiving welfare benefits. A crucial step in the Congressional plan was authorizing states to drug test welfare recipients as a condition to receiving benefits. With this grant of authority, states enacted legislation to implement drug testing programs to protect children in welfare receiving homes from the dangers of drug addicted parents. In 2011, over thirty-six states proposed legislation requiring drug testing of welfare applicants. In addition, in 2012 “at least 28 states put forth proposals requiring drug testing for public assistance applicants or recipients in 2012.” Two state drug testing laws have been found unconstitutional Fourth Amendment search and seizures. These cases held that the special needs doctrine, an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s individualized suspicion requirement, did not apply to drug testing of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants. As more states propose drug testing legislation even after lower courts have held existing laws unconstitutional, it is necessary to take a closer look at the testing of welfare recipients and any potential Fourth Amendment implications.This Note argues that mandatory suspicionless drug testing is not a violation of a welfare applicant’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
Note, Drug Testing, Welfare, and the Special Needs Doctrine: An Argument in Support of Drug Testing TANF Recipients, 61 Clev. St. L. Rev. 567 (2013)