Sunday, October 20, 2002

Local teen's appeal of juvenile fornication conviction heard by Georgia Supreme Court


The Georgia Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold a juvenile court delinquency ruling against a 16-year-old boy for fornication after he was caught having sex with his girlfriend at her Fayette County home in September of last year.

Under Georgia law, an unmarried person commits the misdemeanor offense of fornication when he or she voluntarily has sexual intercourse with another person outside of marriage.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has come to the defense of the boy identified in court documents as J.M. contends he had a right to privacy and therefore should not have been charged with the crime. The ACLU contends that the Georgia Supreme Court's previous decision to strike the state's anti-sodomy statute should apply here since such laws violate the constitutional right to privacy.

But Assistant District Attorney Jamie Inagawa argues that decision was for "acts committed by adults" and although 16-year-olds can consent to sex in Georgia, they are still considered minors by state law. When the teens were caught having sex, J.M. was in the girl's home without permission of the girl's parents at approximately 3 a.m., Inagawa said.

"Since he was there unbeknownst to the owner of the house ... he has no right to privacy for sexual acts," Inagawa said.

Gerry Weber, an attorney for the ACLU, argues otherwise, noting that the girl invited J.M. over to the house and into her bedroom.

"It was consensual sexual activity by persons legally able to give consent in a private place," Weber said. "... It's one of those government-in-the-bedroom issues."

When the girl's mother entered the bedroom, J.M. escaped through the window, according to court documents. The teens had blocked the door to the girl's bedroom to prevent anyone from entering, Inagawa said.

The court also has to determine whether 16-year-olds can have consensual sex, Inagawa said.

J.M. also was represented by Peachtree City attorney Catherine Sanderson.

The court heard oral arguments on the case Tuesday afternoon, but it is not clear when it may rule on the matter.

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