I just read a comment that implied that a law that hadn’t been used in a while was no longer relevant. Which made me curious as to what was the oldest unused US law that could still be considered relevant (not things like witchcraft or drinking after dark which would be judged to have been overridden by later laws). I immediately thought of the 3rd Amendment (no quartering of soldiers).

Has the US government/military ever tried to violate the 3rd, and if so when?

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    This appears to be covered by the Wikipedia article on the Third Amendment's judicial history. In particular it was invoked for Engblom v Carey, but the court dismissed the suit in that case. If by "has the govt ever tried" you mean in the eyes of the law, the answer seems to be no; at least, the court never held anyone responsible. If you're looking for something else not covered by the article, please edit your post to clarify. – Semaphore Jan 9 '19 at 12:50
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    @PieterGeerkens The "origins" of the 3rd amendment can certainly make a worthy question, but it would also be a vastly different question to the current one, which only asks whether the US government has violated it (or whether there has been a court case over it - it's not quite clear whether OP treats the two as identical). I do not think it is proper to appropriate this thread to ask what would in effect be a different question. – Semaphore Jan 9 '19 at 13:50
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    @Semaphore: I did a lot more than just reference the Wikipedia answer. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 9 '19 at 13:55
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    @PieterGeerkens Yes, and it's an interesting read. But 75% of your answer is making the case that the third amendment isn't obsolete and then exploring why it exists. That's not what the question, as currently worded, is actually asking. Perhaps you would like to put it in a self-answered question instead? – Semaphore Jan 9 '19 at 13:58
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    Although it took me two clicks (rather than the stipulated one) to get to Engblom vs. Carey, it's hard to disagree with @Semaphore's decision to put the question on hold. I would also be wary of a major edit as that would quite likely invalidate one or both of the existing answers, and editing questions which invalidate existing answers is not something we should encourage under any circumstances. It seems the best option would be to let this one peacefully close and pose another question (as already suggested). – Lars Bosteen Jan 9 '19 at 14:46

In Engblom v Carey (1979) Judge Walter R. Mansfield, writing for the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, found that:

  1. that the National Guardsmen qualify as soldiers under the Third Amendment;

  2. that the Third Amendment applies to state as well as federal authorities, i.e., is incorporated against the states; and

  3. that the protection of the Third Amendment extends beyond home owners, that is, those only with a fee simple arrangement, but includes anyone who, within their residence, has a legal expectation of privacy and a legal right to exclude others from entry into the premises.

My opinion is that this article will never be obsolete because of its long history of abuse during both the Counter Reformation and, as noted in the Declaration of Independence itself, the prelude to the American Revolutionary War.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.


For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For example, in Counter Reformation France it was common to billet soldiers (dragonnades) (Aside: for Empire Total War fans, this is likely why dragoons, only, have a repression bonus.) in (Protestant) Hugenot households with explicit instructions to "be careless, and break things", as a means of coercing conversion to Roman Catholicism.

Looking beyond such blatant abuses:

  1. It is a form of taxation (active young men consume a lot of provisions) that is entirely within the purview of the Executive branch. This puts it outside the checks and balances so carefully constructed by the Founders.

  2. It is in fact a form of attainder (ie the loss of civil rights, specifically privacy within one's home, without trial), as its use can be arbitrarily directed against named individuals at executive discretion and it is de facto the imposition of a punishment against those named individuals.

Note also that the Treaties of Münster and Osnabrück explicitly state in regard to sovereign states, that their governments:

shall enjoy without contradiction, the Right of Suffrage in all Deliberations touching the Affairs of the Empire; but above all, when the Business in hand shall be the ..., levying or quartering of Soldiers ...

This model of state sovereignty remains the model of our current international order, as well as being that within which the U.S. Constitution was formulated; so it grants to the Federal government by international convention and treaty any rights not explicitly removed or reassigned by the Constitution.


The 3rd amendment states:

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 only court case relating to the 3rd amendment would appear to be Engblom v. Carey. This resulted from a strike by correction officers in New York state were evicted from their accommodation to make way for National Guardsmen who were called in to replace the correction officers.

As per this Cornell Law School site,

...save for the curious case of Engblom v. Carey, 677 F.2d 957 (2d Cir. 1982), on remand, 572 F. Supp. 44 (S.D.N.Y. 1983), aff’d per curiam, 724 F.2d 28 (2d Cir. 1983), there has been no judicial explication of the Amendment at all.

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