Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jun 2000
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Author: Associated Press


WASHINGTON--The Supreme Court just said "no" Thursday to a state's
plan to require its elected officials to take random drug tests.

The justices refused without comment to revive a Louisiana law that
allowed such random testing.

Louisiana officials said the tests, though required of people not
suspected of any crime, did not constitute unreasonable searches
because the state has "special needs" to deter drug use.

The nation's highest court in 1977 ruled in a Georgia case that states
cannot force political candidates to take drug tests merely to
demonstrate the government's commitment to the war on drugs.

Louisiana's law focused on elected officials, requiring all except
judges to undergo random tests to ensure they "are persons of
integrity, sound judgment, reliability and seriousness of purpose."

Officials who failed two tests could end up before a public hearing,
be censured and fined up to $10,000.

The law was challenged in federal court by state lawmakers Avery C.
Alexander and Arthur A. Morrell.

A federal judge struck down the law, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals upheld that ruling.

"The public's interest in preventing drug abuse among elected
officials, while not insignificant, cannot supersede one of the
Constitution's most fundamental proscriptions," the appeals court
said. It noted that the Constitution generally bans searches without
"probable cause" to suspect a crime.

In previous rulings, the Supreme Court has allowed random searches for
railroad workers and U.S. Customs agents who enforce anti-drug laws,
citing public health and safety.

The court also has allowed random drug testing of student athletes in
public schools because of the national concern over drug use by youngsters.

In the appeal acted on Thursday, Louisiana's lawyers acknowledged
there had been no proof state officials had abused drugs. But they
said elected officials "must be beyond reproach."
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