There’s a THIRD Amendment Now?

Most people are (or at least think they are) familiar with the amendments comprising the Bill of Rights, namely those involving (obviously paraphrasing and simplifying here) “free speech” (First), gun issues (Second), illegal searches and seizures (Fourth), the “right to remain silent” (Fifth), the right to counsel (Sixth), the right to a jury trial (Seventh), and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments (Eighth).

What are we missing?  That’s right – the Third Amendment. Though largely forgotten and even ridiculed, it finally gets its moment in the spotlight.

Below is the recent court complaint filed in the District of Nevada alleging police misconduct. Plaintiffs claim that the police sought and obtained (without consent) entry into their homes to spy on a neighbor in connection with an unrelated domestic violence investigation.

While the complaint contains allegations standard in police misconduct litigation (e.g., assault, battery, false arrest, and violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution) it also alleges that the police violated plaintiffs’ Third Amendment rights.

That Amendment, titled “Soldiers Denied Quarter in Homes”, provides:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Plaintiffs allege, in pertinent part (beginning at paragraph 18):

Defendant OFFICER CHRISTOPHER WORLEY (HPD) contacted Plaintiff ANTHONY MITCHELL via his telephone. WORLEY told Plaintiff that police needed to occupy his home in order to gain a “tactical advantage” against the occupant of the neighboring house. ANTHONY MITCHELL told the officer that he did not want to become involved and that he did not want police to enter his residence. Although WORLEY continued to insist that Plaintiff should leave his residence, Plaintiff clearly explained that he did not intend to leave his home or to allow police to occupy his home. WORLEY then ended the phone call.

After Plaintiff ANTHONY MITCHELL refused to allow the police to enter his home, the Defendant police officers, including Defendants SERGEANT MICHAEL WALLER, OFFICER DAVID CAWTHORN and OFFICER CHRISTOPHER WORLEY, conspired among themselves to force ANTHONY MITCHELL out of his residence and to occupy his home for their own use. Defendant OFFICER DAVID CAWTHORN outlined the Defendants’ plan in his official report:

It was determined to move to 367 Evening Side and attempt to contact Mitchell. If Mitchell answered the door he would be asked to leave. If he refused to leave he would be arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer. If Mitchell refused to answer the door, force entry would be made and Mitchell would be arrested.

At approximately 11:52 a.m., police officers… arrayed themselves in front of Plaintiff ANTHONY MITCHELL’s house and prepared to execute their plan. The officers banged forcefully on the door and loudly commanded ANTHONY MITCHELL to open the door to his residence.

Seconds later, officers, including OFFICER ROCKWELL, smashed open Plaintiff ANTHONY MITCHELL’s front door with a metal ram as Plaintiff stood in his living room.

These (and the remaining) allegations, including that the police shot plaintiff and his cowering dog (!) with “pepperball” rounds, are quite horrifying and, if proven, should have severe consequences for the defendants.

The Third Amendment claim seems unnecessary, since plaintiffs cover their bases with the remaining claims. In addition, it may not get far. While the Supreme Court has stated (in dicta) in Katz v. United States that this Amendment “protects another aspect of privacy from governmental intrusion”, the Amendment (see above) contains specific language that may not apply here.  For example, it isn’t clear whether state police officers are “soldiers” and whether they were “quartered” in plaintiffs’ houses during the encounter.

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