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Third Amendment

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Description: Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and part of the Bill of Rights that denies quarter in private homes to soldiers during times of peace.


Significance: Contemporary use of the amendment by the Supreme Court has been simply as a reference exemplifying constitutional protections of property-based privacy rights against certain governmental intrusions.


The last time the Third Amendment had serious literal application was during the Civil War (1861-1865), when property owners were made to house, feed, and generally support both Union and Confederate soldiers. Today, such literal application is rare. However, in Engblom v. Carey (1982), a federal appellate court held that striking corrections officers had a lawful interest in their living quarters, located at the prison and provided in the course of their employment, which entitled them to a legitimate expectation of privacy protected by the Third Amendment. For development of privacy rights, the Supreme Court usually relied on provisions of other amendments such as the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure and used the Third Amendment simply as a nominal reference to general constitutional protections. For example, in a footnote to Katz v. United States (1967), a landmark decision regarding Fourth Amendment privacy rights, Justice Potter Stewart merely listed the Third Amendment in his enumeration of constitutional protections. This contemporary reliance is typified by State v. Coburn (1974), in which the Montana supreme court cited the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments as the “umbrella of constitutional protections” afforded individual privacy.