381 U.S. 479 (1965).

Case Synopsis:

Holding: A Connecticut statute making it a crime for any person to use any drug or article to prevent conception is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy of married couples.

Justices concurring: Douglas, Clark.

Justices concurring specially: Goldberg, Brennan, Warren, C.J., Harlan, White.

Justices dissenting: Black, Stewart.

Detailed Summary:

In Griswold v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a Connecticut law that provided:  “Any person who uses any drug, medical article, or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception shall be fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or be both fined and imprisoned.”

Justice Douglas, in the majority opinion, found that the law violated the fundamental right to privacy of married couples.  However, he specifically rejected the argument that the law violated any liberties under the due process clause.  The Court noted that, “we are met with a wide range of questions that implicate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Overtones of some suggest that Lochner v. New York should be our guide.  But we decline that invitation as we did [in other cases].”

The Court instead found the right to privacy implicit in many provisions of the Bill of Rights, such as the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Amendments:  “The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.  Various guarantees create zones of privacy . . . We have had many controversies over these penumbral rights of privacy and repose.  These cases bear witness that the right of privacy which presses for recognition here is a legitimate one.”

Based on the foregoing, the Court concluded that the Connecticut law violated the married couple’s right to privacy from using contraceptives.  The Court reasoned, “[w]ould we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of the martial bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives.  The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.”

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