The 3rd Amendment: Why Didn’t It Apply to Hotels in DC

The 3rd Amendment: Why Didn't It Apply to Hotels in DC

( – The Bill of Rights is incorporated as the first 10 amendments of the United States Constitution, and most are familiar with the first, second, and fifth and perhaps even the fourth, if only by watching TV shows. However, the third amendment would be an enigma to most people because it’s highly unlikely it’s come up in any conversation they’ve had, ever.

The text of it is fairly straightforward and deals only with a single topic and it reads, “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house [emphasis added], without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

Current Interest

The year 2020 has been the most bizarre one in living memory (one could almost hear the voice of Rod Serling saying that the world has stepped into “The Twilight Zone”), so it should surprise no one that we would be faced with a legal dilemma based on one of the most obscure items in all of the American law. How much of an oddball is it? In the entire history of the country, it has never come up before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), except as a footnote to one case, and only the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has addressed it directly in one ruling.

That all changed when Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) of the District of Columbia…to be polite about it, invited… President Donald Trump to remove military troops being housed in hotels around the nation’s capital. This caused memes and other talking points to fly across the Internet “discussing” this almost unheard-of bit of law.

Notwithstanding the surge in public interest, one needs to examine what little information there is, such as:

  • The word “house” in the amendment itself.
  • The Second Circuit case (Engblom v. Carey), which dealt with a renter’s right in a single-family home.
  • The SCOTUS decision (Griswold v. Connecticut) where the only mention of it came as it related to a couple’s rights within their private residence.

Since nobody in the history of the United States has ever tried to claim that this covered hotels/motels, any court would have to treat this as a “novel claim” (i.e., has no precedent). Had Mayor Bowser needed to take this to court, the burden of proof would have fallen upon the city to show why hotels and motels should be covered under the amendment, and would be a hard row to hoe.

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