Powell v. State

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Powell v. State of Georgia, S98A0755, 270 Ga. 327, 510 S.E. 2d 18 (1998)[1] was a decision of the Supreme Court of Georgia. Powell was charged with a complaint in which he had performed non-consensual oral sex upon his wife's 17-year-old niece in his house. The jury acquitted him of the non-consensual portion of the complaint, but convicted him of consensual sodomy. In its appeal, the defense argued the statute was unconstitutional; the state argued that a conviction such as this was explicitly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986).

The decision in Powell goes against the argument in Bowers (1986) when they determined that the state cannot hold charges against a man who had performed consensual cunnilingus with his compliant. That "While many believe that acts of sodomy, even those involving consenting adults, are morally reprehensible, this repugnance alone does not create a compelling justification for state regulation of the activity."

The court held that the statute was in violation of the State Constitution's protections of the right to privacy and was struck down. Under the State of Georgia's Constitution's privacy provisions the court found the statute unconstitutional, stating that the protections of the individual's right to privacy in the State Constitution are stronger and more broad than those of the Federal Constitution's protections under the Fourth Amendment.

Powell's conviction was overturned.

Though this case involved heterosexual activity, overturning the state's sodomy law had the effect of overturning state law against homosexual sexual activity. Sodomy laws would not be overturned nationwide until five years later, in Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

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^ Text of the decision