The sovereign citizen movement has become the bane of many police officers in the U.S.
These people feel that due to some contrived loopholes in the constitution they can declare themselves free and laws do not apply to them. However, people who get their legal advice from Wikipedia find out these loopholes don’t tend to actually exist.
For many officers, a traffic stop will be a likely way to encounter one of these people. Please do not take them lightly. Most sovereign citizens are basically law-abiding people, albeit highly misinformed about how the law works. However, some sovereigns have proved a willingness and ability to be violent. If you suspect you are dealing with a sovereign citizen as a LEO, please call for backup.
If you read any sovereign literature, they advocate trying to confuse and befuddle the police. Their mantra is to make a cop so confounded the officer just decides to end the contract before he/she becomes more perplexed.
1. “I am not driving, I am traveling.”
Often the sovereign citizens don’t bother to pay for their licenses. They feel the right to free movement means they do not need a license. Travel is a right, which is true.
What the sovereigns fail to grasp is they are free to travel, by foot, by bike, even by horse. A car is a complex machine. To operate a complex machine requires training and some licensure to operate said machine. Heck, here in Wisconsin all our driving laws are worded with “operate a motor vehicle”; none say “drive.”
2. “As a free person, I do not recognize the jurisdiction you have blah blah blah blah…”
At some point, a sovereign citizen will say they are a free person. As a free person, they are not subject to any local laws and are “free of any legal constraints,” including taxes and fines.
What they fail to grasp is that they want all the protection of local government without paying the cost for it. Ask a sovereign what they would do if their child was hurt. Ask if their house was on fire how they plan to put it out? Their response is always to call 911. It is a funny, eye-opening experience to point out that 911 and the fire/EMS service is a local, tax-funded entity. So if they are a free person, well maybe 911 is something they are free to keep away from as well — as in no ambulance and no fire trucks for them because they are not paying for the service.
3. “Speeding is not a crime; a crime requires an ‘injured party.’”
In their twisted view of the law they feel ordinance violations are not valid because there is no victim. Yet they forget we have different levels of legal violations in this country.
Here in Wisconsin most, traffic and other minor violations are ordinance violations. Not a crime, but a civil forfeiture. Thus, no “injured party” is needed. It is a civil matter, not a criminal matter.
4. “As a free person, your license plate taxes do not apply to me.”
It seems some sovereign citizens will make their own license plates for their cars. These plates will display terms like “US Constitutional Plate,” “Exempt: Sovereign Neutral Non-Combatant,” “Sovereign Christian Citizen.” or any of some other non-legal terms. They feel they are exempt from the ‘illegal’ tax on car ownership.
These sovereigns love to use legal terms and talk about contracts. They forget the nice roads they “travel” on have to be paved and, in the winter, plowed. Point out to them that there is a social contract between the people using the roads and the people keeping the roads open for travel. Someone needs to pay for the cost of the roads, so license plate costs are not a tax, they are a user fee.
5. “Am I being detained?”
The sovereign citizens and the CopBlock movement both love this question. People who got their law degrees by reading Facebook comments feel that being detained is the same as an arrest. Yet real lawyers can explain the difference between the two.
Yes, a traffic stop is a short investigative detention. An officer with reasonable suspicion that a violation has taken place may stop someone for a short time to establish facts related to that violation. How brief that short time will be is decided solely by the citizen. If they want to play games, they are the one making the contact last longer.
Remember, sovereign citizens have the propensity for violence. Make sure you have backup. Keep your eyes open for threats. Just because they are dumb enough to get brainwashed into some crazy belief system does not mean they are too stupid to learn tactics to hurt us.
Their tactic is to cause confusion with the officer. Turn the tables on them and confuse them. Make them question what they have learned by watching videos on YouTube. Twice I have used the example of the fire department on a sovereign citizen. Both times they were so flummoxed they forgot all the other rhetoric.