Quartering of Soldiers

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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.

The Third Amendment to the United States Constitution is a part of the United States Bill of Rights. It prohibits the quartering of soldiers (military personnel) in private homes without the owner's consent in peacetime. It makes quartering legally permissible in wartime only, but only in accordance with law. The Founding Fathers' intention in writing this amendment was to prevent the recurrence of soldiers being quartered in private citizens' houses as was done in Colonial America by the British military under the Quartering Act before the American Revolution (1775/6).

Ratified:  December 15, 1791

Notes:  According to the GPO, this is one of the least cited parts of the Constitution in federal case law. The only one the GPO does cite is an interesting case that is actually fairly recent (Engblom v. Carey [2nd Circuit Court]).

In 1982, a group of prison guards went on strike in New York. Some of these guards rented housing from the prison, in a building about a half mile from the prison. When the guards struck, the National Guard was activated by the Governor to take over for the guards. The quarters rented by the guards were used to house the soldiers. A pair of the prison guards sued the Governor and several other officials on the basis that the 3rd Amendment had been violated, and that they had been denied due process under the 14th Amendment. In state court, the claim was summarily dismissed.

On appeal and re-appeal, the Circuit Court upheld the lower court's ruling, and found that the 3rd Amendment had not been violated for several reasons; primarily, they found that the rented apartments were not required to be used (unlike the apartment of, say, a building super), and that in no other way did the guards "own" the property the soldiers were housed in (this being a traditional test of whether someone's rights of property are being violated). On the question of due process, the Court had other opinions that you can research if you are interested.

In an earlier case, United States v. Valenzuela, 95 F. Supp. 363 (S.D. Cal. 1951), the defendant asked that a federal rent-control law be struck down on the grounds that it was "the incubator and hatchery of swarms of bureaucrats to be quartered as storm troopers upon the people in violation of Amendment III of the United States Constitution." The court declined his request.

Depending upon how one might interpret the latter part of the text, "nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law", U.S. military forces regularly violated the Third Amendment during the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. In both cases, a de facto state of war existed, but forced quartering occurred "in a manner" which was not "prescribed by law". Congress never officially declared war against the Confederate States, but this would mean that the forced quartering in states loyal to the Union would have been covered by the first part of the Amendment even if the second part did not.

Topic: Quartering Troops in US Citizen's Houses

When the time came for the House of Representatives to debate the new Constitution in 1789, South Carolina Rep. Thomas Sumter -- the famous fort was named after him -- was recorded in the official proceedings with these thoughts: "Mr. Sumter hoped soldiers would never be quartered on the inhabitants, either in time of peace or war, without the consent of the owner." Without such a guarantee against occupation, Sumter said, "their property would lie at the mercy of men irritated by a refusal, and well disposed to destroy the peace of the family."

Two-hundred-thirteen years later, when Sgts. Matthew Friedline, left, and Greg Gittner prepared to deploy to Fort Dix, N.J., in response to the terrorist crisis, nobody thought for a moment about posting them with an area family. The Army reservists bivouacked at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Pittsburgh International Airport

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Marc Doyle, 2008