The Third Amendment to the US Constitution states, “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.”[i]
This virtually obsolete provision was in response to anger over the British military practice of quartering soldiers in colonists’ homes.[ii] Before the American Revolution, there were instances in Colonial America of quartering of soldiers in private property by the British military under the Quartering Act. The Third Amendment was therefore introduced with the intention of preventing the recurrence of soldiers being quartered in private property.
Ever since the American Revolution, the relevance of the Third Amendment has greatly declined and today, the Third Amendment is among the least cited sections of the U.S. Constitution.
The Third Amendment was occasionally invoked by courts when seeking to establish a base for the right to privacy. For example, in Griswold v. Connecticut[iii], the third amendment is referred to imply a belief that an individual’s home should be free from agents of the state. However, in the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer[iv], the courts have cited the Third Amendment as proof that the Constitution carefully distinguishes between times of war and peace.
In Engblom v. Carey[v], correctional officers involved in an organized strike, were evicted from their prison facility residences, which was then reassigned to members of the National Guard who had temporarily taken their place as prison guards. The correctional officers challenged this move as violating the Third Amendment and the Federal Court was for the first time asked to invalidate as violative of the Third Amendment the peacetime quartering of troops “in any house, without the consent of the Owner.” The prison officials’ Third Amendment claims were summarily rejected on the ground that they were not owners of the residences. On appeal, however, the term “owner” was construed more broadly. Since there existed no Supreme Court precedents on the Third Amendment, the Circuit Court of Appeals relied on rulings relating to the Fourth Amendment, as both Amendments relate to what are considered privacy rights. It was noted that the Supreme Court had rejected notions that Fourth Amendment protections extended only to owners of property that Court having ruled that “one who owns or lawfully possesses or controls property will in all likelihood have a legitimate expectation of privacy.” Similarly, the Circuit Court extended Third Amendment protections to tenants.
[iii] 381 U.S. 479 (U.S. 1965)
[iv] 343 U.S. 579, 644 (U.S. 1952)
[v] 677 F.2d 957 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1982)