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Jan 10 2016

Trespass – Privacy – Third Amendment

During the French and Indian war in America, British officers seized private homes to quarter their troops when needed. The colonists reluctantly accepted this practice during wartime, but stiffened against it once the war was over and British troops remained in the Colonies.

The “Quartering Act” of 1765 was passed by the British Parliament in order to define the requirement of the Colonies to provide barracks for British soldiers. When the barracks did not provide sufficient housing, the soldiers were to be placed in local inns, stables, pubs, restaurants and the homes of wine merchants. When this “public” housing still did not provide enough accommodation, “uninhabited” houses, barns, and other buildings could be used.

This act did not specify the quartering of soldiers in private homes and while the practice may not have been commonplace, it did occur. The veracity and frequency of tales of abuse of private homes by British soldiers are questionable, but the fears sparked by them among the colonists were a factor in revolutionary resistance. After the war for independence, the Third Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights to prevent any future abuse in this regard.

The legal issue of trespass is directly related to the right to possess private property. “Private” property implies an ability to control access to the property and exclude unwanted invasions. Physical access control seems obvious, but the owner of private property also has the right to build walls to protect privacy and prevent against visual and other forms of trespass. Unwanted access to private information are considered legally to be forms of trespass and theft.