Third Amendment In Danger?

Holy crap:

Henderson police arrested a family for refusing to let officers use their homes as lookouts for a domestic violence investigation of their neighbors, the family claims in court.

Anthony Mitchell and his parents Michael and Linda Mitchell sued the City of Henderson, its Police Chief Jutta Chambers, Officers Garret Poiner, Ronald Feola, Ramona Walls, Angela Walker, and Christopher Worley, and City of North Las Vegas and its Police Chief Joseph Chronister, in Federal Court.

The Mitchell family’s claim includes Third Amendment violations, a rare claim in the United States. The Third Amendment prohibits quartering soldiers in citizens’ homes in times of peace without the consent of the owner.

What allegedly happened — and I should emphasize that this is from the plaintiff’s complaint, so we don’t have the police side — was that the Henderson PD contacted Mitchell and wanted to use his home to gain a “tactical advantage” against a neighboring house. He refused. They later showed up and started banging on the door, demanding entry (so much for tactical advantage). When he didn’t open up, they smashed the door down, aimed weapons at him, fired pepperball rounds at him and his dog and arrested him for obstructing an officer.

Oh, they also tricked his dad out of a nearby home and arrested him when he tried to return. Both were charged with obstructing an officer. In both cases, the charge was dismissed with prejudice. Again, we don’t have the police side of this story. This was two years ago and the complaint hints that they have tried normal complaint avenues.

If the facts are as the complaint says, I like this. The police in this country have become increasingly militarized and taken an increasingly militaristic approach to law enforcement. This was not a case where there was a fleeing suspect and an imminent danger. According to the complaint, the cops did not show up to argue or persuade or even command. They broke down the door and used SWAT tactics against a completely innocent citizen.

More from Somin, who points out that the Third Amendment has never officially been “incorporated” so that it applies to state and local governments. This could be interesting. But I suspect it will end with some kind of settlement. Because the last thing law enforcement wants is for the Courts to start limiting their military capabilities.

(There are Fourth Amendment issues here as well; stay tuned for a post on that.)

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    Most likely about 99.95% of all police SWAT teams have no valid reason for existing, and of those that do, I expect that most of their activities are criminal in one way or another as they just appear to fucking love violating the bill of rights on a routine, daily basis.

    I’d also like to see a reversal of the trend of cop shops hiring ex-military; these individuals by far tend toward “do as I say or I’ll fucking blow your head off” mentality, and otherwise act as complete pricks to everyone for no good reason on a near constant basis. There are many good reasons to not militarize civilian police, and I can’t think of a single good reason to do so.

    As an example to other police, all the cops in this particular incident, including the police chief, should be given a public lynching on the strip – say in front of the Belagio fountains, and let to rot in the summer heat. Doing it in Henderson would be a waste of time – this needs to be really public.

    I don’t do well with abuse of authority, and I am 100% serious.

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  2. Seattle Outcast

    As an arguement to the defining police as “soldiers” it would be good to remind everyone that that is how cops think of themselves. The rest of us are “civilians” when the police start talking about the public. It’s directly in conflict with the concept of the police being members of the community, which is, in theory what they are.

    Now that they want to be armed like the military, talk of themselves as being part of the military, and structure their ranks in the same manner, they should get to treated like the military. Which would include their unions being tossed out, terms of enlistment, loss of certain rights while in uniform, and court matial under the UCMJ.

    I imagine that their civil forfeitures would also come to and end, which is something else that they do on a daily basis that violates the bill of rights.

    Needless to say, the vast majority of police would not want to see this happen – having their cake and eating it too is pretty much the mindset of the average cop.

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  3. TxAg94

    As I said on another blog, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

    The cops will resist the application of the 3rd Amendment by saying they are NOT military. But, as SO has said, they dress like it, carry military weapons, act like they are raiding homes in Afghanistan looking for insurgents, and refer to us as “civilians”. They WANT to be military under just about any other circumstances because it gives them incredible leverage.

    And at the end of it all they will tell us how they NEED this authority to save the world. Oh, and did you know they are all heroes because of 9/11? Yep, heroes who will fuck you up and shoot your dog if you resist.

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  4. hist_ed

    I think that if the complaint is accurate that there should be firings and a huge judgment. However, the Third Amendment does not come into play. They are not soldiers, even if they are trying to act like them. Also: “The Third Amendment prohibits quartering soldiers in citizens’ homes in times of peace without the consent of the owner.”The Third Amendment prohibits quartering soldiers in citizens’ homes in times of peace without the consent of the owner.”

    This is not a “time of peace;” the country is at war.

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  5. Section8

    This is not a “time of peace;” the country is at war.

    oh yeah?

    We’ve go a war on…

    war on the war on whistle-blowers crowd
    big oil
    big pharma
    big health insurance
    fat people
    people who aren’t fat but eat like they should be
    and a war on smileys :)

    That’s just the short list.

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  6. Seattle Outcast

    Well, the police are certainly at war with the public and common sense, but the 3rd Amendment hasn’t ever really seen a day in court, so it’s interpretation isn’t actually clear in this instance. What we do have is the police deciding to take over a residence against the wishes of the owner for an undetermined amount of time.

    That they had no warrants, the owner had committed no crime other than to say no to a “request” by the police, and then proceeded to perform a military style raid with every intention of inflicting bodily harm doesn’t appear to be in doubt. That his dog wasn’t summarily killed (as is apparently standard procedure for all police when encountering any dog under any circumstances) is astounding.

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  7. Hal_10000 *

    I agree, Xetrov. The third amendment claim is a bit dubious at best. But I think the Fourth Amendment claim is very solid. There was not an imminent threat here so I think the citizen is well within his rights saying, “No.”

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  8. InsipiD

    Here’s the full text of the complaint. Seems to me they have a better shot at Fourth Amendment protection (unreasonable search and seizure), and possibly a due process violation (5th and 14th Amendments). I’d like to see the Police’s take on things before stringing them up on the strip.

    You’re probably right, and let’s do be honest: if you’re interacting with a police officer these days, you’re being searched. An ocular pat-down at least, as Mac says on Always Sunny. If they’re in your house, they’ll be poking around in your stuff in a way that you wouldn’t let the Sears man do. If you’re “talking” at your car, there’s a flashlight shining in your back seat. Questions about your tint and your duffel bag. I wouldn’t blame anyone for declining to have a cop inside the house for any reason other than to remove the body after a robbery attempt.

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  9. hist_ed

    oh yeah?

    We’ve go a war on…

    We also have soldiers fighting and dying in Afghanistan. All the other crap you cite doesn’t really seem to call for suspension of the Third Amendment. The fact that our soldiers are in combat does.

    Again, if what we are told is correct, the police deserve quite a spanking. It just had nothing to do with the 3rd

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  10. Section8

    We also have soldiers fighting and dying in Afghanistan.

    Unfortunately true. We need to get out of the nation building business. Going over there and kicking ass was fine initially, but they can rebuild themselves now.

    All the other crap you cite doesn’t really seem to call for suspension of the Third Amendment.

    Oh I agree. I was just being a smart ass on all the wars on whatever we have these days.

    Again, if what we are told is correct, the police deserve quite a spanking.


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