Drug Testing Supreme Court Cases

In City of Indianapolis v. Edmond (2000) 531 U.S. 32, the high court struck down a highway checkpoint program administered to discover and interdict illegal drugs. Although the court had upheld brief, suspicionless seizures at highway checkpoints for the purpose of combating drunk driving or intercepting illegal immigrants, a significant factor in those decisions was the need to police the borders and the safety concerns of drunk drivers on the roads. The court distinguished between a specific highway safety interest and a general interest in crime control. It stated: "We have never approved a checkpoint program whose primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing. Rather, our checkpoint cases have recognized only limited exceptions to the general rule that a seizure must be accompanied by some measure of individualized suspicion. We suggested . . . that we would not credit 'the general interest in crime control' as justification for a regime of suspicionless stops. Consistent with this suggestion, each of the checkpoint programs that we have approved was designed primarily to serve purposes closely related to the problems of policing the border or the necessity of ensuring roadway safety. Because the primary purpose of the Indianapolis narcotics checkpoint program is to uncover evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing, the program contravenes the Fourth Amendment." (Edmond, supra, at pp. 41-42.) In Ferguson v. City of Charleston (2001) 532 U.S. 67, the court invalidated a hospital program designed to protect unborn fetuses from women who are abusing drugs. The program authorized drug tests of women who meet one or more specified criteria. If the women thereafter failed drug rehabilitation, they were referred to police for arrest. (Ferguson, supra, 532 U.S. at pp. 70-73.) In distinguishing earlier cases upholding such drug testing, the court explained: "The critical difference between those four drug-testing cases and this one . . . lies in the nature of the 'special need' asserted as justification for the warrantless searches. In each of those earlier cases, the 'special need' that was advanced as a justification for the absence of a warrant or individualized suspicion was one divorced from the State's general interest in law enforcement. . . . In this case, however, the central and indispensable feature of the policy from its inception was the use of law enforcement to coerce the patients into substance abuse treatment." (Id. at pp. 79-80.) According to the court, the immediate objective of the program was to generate evidence for criminal prosecution, whereas none of the prior cases involved the collection of evidence for criminal enforcement. (Id. at pp. 82-83.)