How to Defend—And Define—The Third Amendment: Glenn Reynolds


Last week, Reason's Jacob Sullum brought our attention to a possible Third Amendment case in Henderson, Nevada.

The Henderson cops, it seems, broke into a house next to one owned by a couple the cops wanted to surveil. When the occupant of the house said no, they broke down his door, arrested him, and pepper-balled the dog (naturally). Whether this activity tipped off the neighbors the cops wanted to spy on isn't clear, but never mind. The whole incident seems way too much like something from the satirical show Reno 911!

The guy who was arrested is righly filing suit against the police, claiming among other things that his Third Amendment rights—against the quartering of soliders during peacetime and without a general law being passed—have been violated.

While that part of his case may not stand up in court, Glenn Reynolds has a great defense of the larger principles at play. In his USA Today column, the Instapundit writes,

I think we need to return to the sense of one's home as a castle, a "fundamental right of privacy" that the Third Amendment was intended to protect. Police, except in those rather rare cases where they reasonably think someone inside is being held hostage or the like, should have to knock politely at the door and—unless they have a warrant—should have to depart if the homeowner doesn't want them to come in. Those who violate this rule should be prosecuted as criminals, and opened up to lawsuits without benefit of official immunity.

Some may protest that this rule will make it harder to go after drug dealers and such, who may flush their drugs away before police can get in. To which I respond, tough. Protecting Americans' homes from invasions by armed hooligans is more important than protecting prosecutions under the drug war. One would think, in fact, that preventing such invasions is the first duty of police. It's unfortunate that so many in law enforcement seem to have forgotten that.