“Mr. Beaver, I have a confession to make. Both my minister and our family attorney suggested that I could in some way make up for all the trouble I have caused people these past two years by coming clean to someone who could get my message out to a lot of people, and they suggested you, because of your column in the Eureka Times-Standard.”
The phone call was from “Keith,” who describes himself as a former Sovereign Citizen.
Who are sovereign citizens?
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama, offers this explanation of the Sovereign Citizen movement:
“Sovereign citizens believe that they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don't think they should have to pay taxes. Sovereigns are clogging up the courts with indecipherable filings and when cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence, usually directed against government officials. In May 2010, for example, a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two police officers with an assault rifle when they were pulled over on the interstate while traveling through West Memphis, Ark.”
While YouTube videos clearly reveal that some of these people belong in a mental hospital, it would be a mistake to consider them all as nuts. There are many highly educated, intelligent people who declare themselves to be Sovereign Citizens, as strange as their philosophy sounds to most people. According to the FBI and other organizations who keep tabs on them, there are an estimated 300,000 Sovereigns in the United States and Canada, and many are found in Australia and New Zealand.
It should also be pointed out that the FBI considers them as domestic terrorists, with over 25 police officers killed in confrontations with them.
I suggest Googling YouTube Sovereign Citizens Traffic Stops. You will see videos of cars pulled over for a variety of traffic violations. They are driven by people who often have no driver’s license, expired or fake license plates, no insurance, and when asked to identify themselves, refuse, often winding up with the police smashing their windows and taking them to jail.
I am amazed by the patience shown by traffic officers, trying to reason with these people who adamantly maintain they have no obligation of obeying their orders, rattling off what they feel is justification for a refusal to comply. The videos–made by Sovereigns and the police-- are upsetting, and when there are children present, even more so as mom or dad is pulled from the car and taken away in handcuffs, all of which was unnecessary.
YouTube featuring Keith
“Mr. Beaver, may I send you my video which led to our phone call?” Keith politely asked, and I agreed. Soon the full impact of his faith in the Sovereign Citizen movement became clear as his wife and three children — in the car with him — were in tears, crying, screaming, begging him to just do what the officer asked.
“I was speeding. My license had expired but I was under this illusion that I was above the law and didn’t need one, nor did I need state-required insurance. I was a true believer and was nasty to the police officer, spouting off what I now realize was pure nonsense about the cop’s having no right to detain me for the traffic violations.
“I said idiotic things, such as ‘I am traveling not driving for commerce’ as in some of the seminars I attended, they say you only need a license if you are operating a commercial vehicle.’
The video was hard to watch and so sad, Keith swearing at the officer, using the “F-bomb” constantly. I wondered just what kind of an impression his behavior would leave on his children, especially when he was forcibly removed from the car and taken to jail.
“At these seminars, they told us to rattle off the law–or what they said was the law–and to demand ID from the police, but to refuse to identify ourselves. They also told us to stop filing our income tax and refuse to pay property taxes — which I did, over my wife’s objections. That proved costly.”
“I was a jerk in court and was found in contempt. When I got out, our minister and my parent’s family attorney did an intervention, explained the fallacies in Sovereign Citizen reasoning, and I listened, not wanting to lose my family.
“So, Mr. Beaver, to anyone who is tempted in becoming a Sovereign Citizen, I recommend doing your homework and watching the many YouTube videos of people making fools of themselves. It just isn’t worth it.”
Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to Lagombeaver1@gmail.com. And be sure to visit dennisbeaver.com.
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