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Sovereign Citizens on the Road

They're not driving, they're traveling.

By Buck HardcastlePublished about a month ago 7 min read
From @memeadikt

Sovereign citizen” is a catchall phrase referring to a variety of anti-government individuals and groups who share some common beliefs and behaviors. For various ahistorical reasons, they believe they can just opt out of living under a government. Becoming a sovereign citizen is a bit like Michael Scott declaring bankruptcy, you just sort of decide it, but nothing has actually changed in the eyes of the law.

As you might imagine, the United States government is not fond of the sovereign citizen movement. When someone thinks laws don't apply to them, they tend to commit more crimes. The FBI considers them domestic terrorists. A recent high profile case was January 6th insurrectionist Taylor James Johnatakis, who was found guilty of felony counts of obstruction of an official proceeding, assaulting officers and civil disorder, as well as four misdemeanor charges. Judge Royce Lamberth described his defense as "bullshit" and "gobbledygook." This is common for sovereign citizens: they opt to represent themselves and then demand the courts to bend to legal ideas that they picked up from Facebook memes, which tends to not be very successful.

The worldview and grievances of so-called sovereign citizens are broad and incoherent. This article is going to focus on an area where they frequently clash with the real world: while driving. Take a look at their cars:


This was a car spotted in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Instead of a license plate there is a placard reading "PRIVATE. No driver license or insurance required. Not for commerce use - private mode of travel." That last part is their justification for their actions: in the mind of the sovereign citizen it is only driving if you are using a car for commercial purposes. If you are just going on your own that is "travel" and doesn't need a drivers license, license plate or insurance.

Here's a van spotted in St. Louis. The complete text reads:





II Am Jur 1st: Const. Law § 329; Pg. 1135 / 16 CJS Const. Law § 202; Pg. 987

INVOKED: 4th & 5th Amdts of Constitution for the united States of America


Expires 12/31/2099

To answer your first question: Yes, you can buy that placard for $25. It is not a license plate, regardless of what the store says, and I do not advise using it. The store also says you can get it to show your "humor" which seems cowardly of them. I was hoping the store might also explain some of that legalese, but it did not. So I looked into it.

§ 9-109 is the Uniform Commercial Code scope, § 1-308 is "Performance or Acceptance Under Reservation of Rights." What point they're trying to make here isn't clear. II Am. Jur. (1st) Constitutional Law, Sec. 329 does seem a bit more relevant:

"The right of a citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, by horse drawn carriage, wagon, or automobile, is not a mere privilege which may be permitted or prohibited at will, but a common right which he has under his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Here is the root of their claim to be able to "travel" as they like. They can in fact travel as much as they want, but if they want to operate a motor vehicle, they need a license.

You might also be picking up that when I said sovereign citizens "think they can just opt out of living under a government" that was a bit of a simplification. It's more like they think that much of the government is illegitimate, and only a select few laws that fit their purposes are real. Plus the many of good laws are being kept secret. Who is hiding the laws? Well, take a guess.

Back to the plate, 16 C.J.S., Constitutional Law, Sect.202, is more about the right to travel. The 4th amendment is about unreasonable searches and seizures; and yes the police shouldn't search your car without cause, but they can still pull you over. The 5th amendment covers your right to a grand jury, prohibits double jeopardy and prohibits compelling self incrimination. Yes, you do have those rights, but again, it is not clear what they are trying to prove.

Here's one, also from St. Louis, where this person claims to be exempt because they are a diplomat. Where is he from? "The Republic of the Seberal States of the Union." Could find no origin of the "Seberal States." I did find that you could buy this placard on Amazon for $18. And yes, the reviews are amazing.

It works, just ensure you completely 100% understand the laws regarding right to travel and I ensure that you will be untouchable. It really upsets the cops

--Brandon & Kayce Waters

The easy life is here. No more money spent on registrations, licenses, taxes or fees. And no more speed limit. You hear that Johnny Law? Just try to stop me and you'll get an affidavit of my fee schedule and be personally liable for millions.

It travels me crazy how people don't know their rights and how to color the law or color the Black's law or something.

Also, something about admiralcy [sic] law.

--Edsel Buglar

This review touches on several aspects of the sovereign citizen movement I haven't mentioned. 1) Wonder why you'll be liable for millions? While sovereign citizens think laws don't generally apply to them, they do like filing lawsuits against their enemies. "The weapon of choice for sovereign citizens is paper. A simple traffic violation or pet-licensing case can end up provoking dozens of court filings containing hundreds of pages of pseudo-legal sovereign arguments." 2) They think they will get different results if they file legal documents in different colors of ink, hence "how to color the law." 3) They think that admiralty law, aka, the law of the sea is the only valid law in America, when it suits them.

I got pulled over and the cop asked for my license and registration, I said, "Ah ah ah!" and pointed to my plate. He glanced over at that big ole "EXEMPT" and said "Drats! Guess I'll have to let you get away with driving twice the legal speed limit and vehicular manslaughter. Have a good day now sir!" I then proceeded to wake up and take my meds.

Amazon reviewer "T" is the only hero in this story.

I could keep going with examples of these cars. Let's move on though, to what happens when one of these drivers is pulled over. As you might imagine, the interaction is often not positive. This police site has put out a guide on what to expect. This part answered a question I had:

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.

If the sovereign citizen is stubborn about their beliefs they can wind up with an obstructing an officer charge. It can get much worse though, such as the case of Geromino Kee, who shot a Memphis police officer during a traffic stop. Or the man who shot a bystander before being killed by Huston police after a traffic stop went bad.

In a compilation video of sovereign citizens in court, you can see it often doesn't go well for them there either. They yell about how they were traveling, not driving, or how the court is illegitimate. Some protest that court documents have written their name in all capital letters. This goes to a belief that upon birth the government creates a person "JOHN DOE" which is a separate legal entity than "John Doe" the natural man.

A lot of these guys were originally charged with driving on a suspended license, (though one committed a triple homicide) to which they add obstructing an officer, and then add contempt of court for their refusal to stop interrupting with their nonsense. They've clearly put a lot of thought into their speeches about their rights as "a natural man" yet they've put zero critical thinking into their process. Because what do they think is going to happen? That the judge is going to say "Oh, wait, this court is illegitimate? I never realized! What have I been doing with my life?"

I used to work with people with schizophrenia, and I never meet anyone as delusional as these sovereign citizens. How can they think that yelling at a judge is going to help them?

By Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Raising that question might have made you think of the most famous narcissist in America. Just as Donald Trump has gone after judges, many of these sovereign citizens think the normal rules of society don't apply to them. Narcissists tend to be driven by "paranoia, gullibility, and the needs for dominance, control, and uniqueness." They are so convinced of their own cleverness and so pleased at having found a cheat code to get through life. Questioning their beliefs, even when faced with serious consequences for failing to do so, is just impossible for their ego.

So it is probably a good idea to keep your distance if you see a car that looks like this on the highway:

Police Depts are a private owned business. I don't have a contract with them, do you? No license fine or fee on "FEE SIMPLE" property. Common Law! High Court Rulings...


About the Creator

Buck Hardcastle

Viscount of Hyrkania and private cartographer to the house of Beifong.

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  • Austin Blessing-Nelson (Blessing)about a month ago

    Good synopsis!

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