The Third Amendment was ratified in 1791 and forbids soldiers from using an American house for shelter without the owner’s consent.
More than 200 years after being ratified, the amendment rarely comes up in legal discussion. But the Henderson, Nev., police department is being sued for violating the amendment after they broke into a man’s home and demanded that he leave.
Anthony Mitchell’s neighbor was under investigation by the Henderson Police Department. One day, Mitchell got a call from Henderson officer Christopher Worley. Worley told Mitchell that the police department needed to use his house to gain a “tactical advantage” in their investigation of the neighbor’s house. Mitchell told Officer Worley that he wanted no part in the investigation and that the officers were not allowed to use his house. The police did not like Mitchell’s response.
According to the lawsuit, officer’s from the department “conspired among themselves to force Anthony Mitchell out of his residence and to occupy his home for their use.”
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If Mitchell answered the door he would be told to leave. If he did not answer the door, he would be arrested for obstructing a police officer.
The officer’s went to Mitchell’s house to execute their plan. Mitchell did not respond to their calls for him to exit his house, so the officers broke down his door with a metal battering ram. Once inside, the lawsuit says "plaintiff Anthony Mitchell stood in shock, the officers aimed their weapons at Anthony Mitchell and shouted obscenities at him and ordered him to lie down on the floor.”
The police fired nonlethal pepper ball rounds at Mitchell and his dog and proceeded to arrest Mitchell for obstructing a police officer. The police then went to the neighboring home of Mitchell’s parents and asked his father, Michael Mitchell, if he would be willing to leave his home for a moment so the officers could negotiate an arrest with a nearby home. Mitchell agreed but soon feared he had been tricked into leaving his home. When the elder Mitchell tried to return home, he was handcuffed and arrested.
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Both men were taken to jail before posting bail bonds and being released. The department quickly cleared the Mitchells off all criminal charges, but that was not enough to make them forget about what had been done to them.
The Mitchells are now suing the Henderson Police Department for their actions. Their lawyer says the department had no reasonable grounds to detain either of the men or use their homes for their investigation.
The attorney wants a trial-by-jury case and is seeking punitive damages for violations of the Third, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, assault and battery, conspiracy, defamation, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, negligence and emotional distress.