The Police Can Legally Kick You Out of Your Home
Police officers are accused of violating the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments all the time, but even the most ardent civil libertarians tend to forget that the Third Amendment exists. So it’s surprising that a lawsuit filed by a family in Hendersonville, Nevada, last week alleges that police broke into their two houses back in July 2011 in violation of their constitutional rights not to be forced to quarter soldiers in their homes.
Anthony Mitchell claims he refused SWAT officers’ request to use his home in order to observe a domestic abuse standoff, but the cops forced their way inside his house anyway, pepper-spraying him and his dog. The lawsuit further alleges that Anthony’s parents, Michael and Linda, were treated roughly and forced from their home. Michael and Anthony were arrested for obstructing justice (these charges were later dismissed), and the family is suing the officers involved and the department in Las Vegas on various charges, including violations of their Third, Fourth, and 14th Amendment rights.
Ilya Somin over at the Volokh Conspiracy law blog says that odds are the lawsuit doesn’t have much of a shot on Third Amendment grounds, since no matter how militarized cops have become, they’re not “officially” soldiers. (Not that the Founding Fathers had any concept of modern policing when they wrote that.) But considering how almost completely the legal system has ignored the Third Amendment—even in relevant cases—it may be interesting to watch what happens to this lawsuit. In a semijust world, it might spark a discussion about how (and if) cops differ from soldiers, and force some higher-court judge to make a ruling about how the constitution applies to militarized police. This probably won’t happen. Unless the war on drugs ends and the behavior of cops, prosecutors, judges, and politicians changes for good, police departments will continue to occupy that sweet spot where they have the technology and mindset of soldiers in war zones, and very few restrictions on where they’re allowed to patrol.