2 Sovereign Citizen …History The "sovereign citizen" movement is a loosely organized collection of groups and individuals who have adopted a right-wing anarchist ideology that adherents believe that virtually all existing government in the United States is illegitimate and they seek to "restore" an idealized, minimalist government that never actually existed.
3 Sovereign Citizen …History Sovereign citizen movement is a subculture that has its roots in hate groups like the KKK or extremist groups similar to the Posse Comitatus of the 1970’s.
4 Sovereign Citizen …History Sovereign citizens wage war against the government and other forms of authority using "paper terrorism" harassment and intimidation tactics, and resorting to violence; particularly directed at police officers and judges.
5 Sovereign Citizen …History The FBI lists them among the nation's top domestic terror threats.
6 Sovereign Citizen …History In the mid-1990s, the IRS estimated that there were approximately 250,000 such tax protesters in the U.S., not all of whom were full-blown sovereign ideologues.
7 Sovereign Citizen …History Since the late 1990s, an abundance of evidence suggests that the sovereign citizen movement's growth has been explosive, although there have been no more recent IRS estimates because Congress in 1998 prohibited the agency from tracking or labeling those who file frivolous arguments in lieu of paying their taxes.
8 Sovereign Citizen …History Today, CBS News estimates, there are as many as 300,000 sovereign citizens in the U.S. And with the sluggish economy and mortgage mess, their ranks are growing.
9 Sovereign Citizen …History It is difficult to say precisely how many sovereigns there are in the United States today, in part because there is no central leadership and no organized group that members can join — instead, there are a variety of local leaders with individualized takes on sovereign citizen ideology and techniques.
10 Sovereign Citizen …History The sovereign citizen movement has a presence in every state in the country, and is particularly active in California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.
11 Sovereign Citizen …History The most noted "guru" is Alfred Adask,who stated in one of his writings:We have the right to keep and bear arms in order to shoot our own politicians. We have the right to keep and bear arms to shoot the police, to shoot your local government officials, your state officials, your president, your congressman, your senators,"
12 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology The sovereign citizen movement argues that if you closely study the Constitution, you can prove that federal laws are illegitimate—leaving you free to choose not to, say, pay taxes or follow traffic laws.
13 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology In their view, the minute you get a Social Security number or driver's license, you enter into a contract giving up your sovereignty.
14 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology Sovereign citizens are anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or “sovereign” from the United States.
15 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology As a result, they believethey don’t have toanswer to anygovernment authority,including courts,taxing entities,motor vehicle departments,or law enforcement.
16 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology At its core, the current sovereign belief system is relatively simple and is based on a decades-old conspiracy theory.
17 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology At some point in history, sovereigns believe, the American government set up by the founding fathers — with a legal system the sovereigns refer to as "common law" — was secretly replaced by a new government system based on admiralty law, the law of the sea and international commerce.
18 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology Sovereign citizens believe that they are answerable only to English Common Law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, state or municipal levels.
19 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology Under common law, or so they believe, the sovereigns would be free men. Under admiralty law, they are slaves, and secret government forces have a vested interest in keeping them that way.
20 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology They especially reject most forms of taxation as illegitimate.
21 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology Participants in the movement argue this concept in opposition to "federal citizens," who, they believe, have unknowingly forfeited their rights by accepting some aspect of federal law.
22 Sovereign Citizen …Ideology Over the last 30 years, there have been hundreds of sovereign promoters packaging different combinations of forms and paperwork, attempting to perfect the process. While no one has ever succeeded, of course, they know with the religious certainty of a true cult believer that they're close. All it will take is the right combination of words, say the promoters of the redemption scam.
23 Sovereign Citizen …Why They Do It Newcomers drift into the movement in a variety of ways.
24 Sovereign Citizen …Why They Do It Originally, the sovereign citizens movement mostly attracted white supremacists and anti-Semites, mainly because sovereign theories originated in groups who saw Jews as playing a behind-the-scenes role in manipulating financial institutions and controlling the government.
25 Sovereign Citizen …Why They Do It In recent years, however, most new recruits are people who have found themselves in a desperate situation and are searching for a quick fix. Others are intrigued by the notions of easy money and living a lawless life, free from any unpleasant consequences.
26 Sovereign Citizen …Why They Do It A flagging economy, the foreclosure crisis and a shift in America's demographics are factors that have fueled recent interest in the movement.
27 Sovereign Citizen …Why They Do It For many, it's a political issue. They don't like taxes, traffic laws, child support obligations or making banks rich, but they are too impatient to try to change what they dislike by traditional, political means.
28 Sovereign Citizen …Why They Do It In times of economic prosperity, sovereigns typically rely on absurd and convoluted schemes to evade state and federal income taxes and hide their assets from the IRS. In times of financial hardship, they turn to debt- and mortgage-elimination scams, techniques to avoid child support payments, and even attempts to use their redemption techniques to get out of serious criminal charges.
29 Sovereign Citizen …Why They Do It A litigation plan based solely on conspiracies and absurd legal theories is doomed to fail. When the inevitable happens, the sovereign has two choices: he can admit he was wrong and fell for an obvious scam, or he can blame the government…and it’s representatives.
30 Sovereign Citizen …Why They Do It Considering that most sovereigns were already desperate when they joined the movement, spending years and many dollars on worthless redemption techniques can only have worsened their situation.
31 Sovereign Citizen …Why They Do It Once they realize that their ideology will not grant them their desired outcome, the sovereign takes aim at his perceived enemies. The judge that dismisses his claim, the county recorder who refuses his filing, the reporter that calls him a deadbeat dad, and the sheriff who evicts him from his foreclosed home — all are possible targets of a sovereign's rage.
32 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Sovereign citizens wage war against the government and other forms of authority using "paper terrorism" harassment and intimidation tactics, and resorting to violence.
33 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics The preferred weapon of members of the sovereign citizen movement is what has come to be called "paper terrorism."
34 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Paper terrorism involves the use of fraudulent legal documents and filings, as well as the misuse of legitimate documents and filings, in order to intimidate, harass and coerce public officials, law enforcement officers and private citizens.
35 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics A simple traffic violation or pet-licensing case can end up provoking dozens of court filings containing hundreds of pages of pseudo-legal nonsense.
36 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics For example, a sovereign was involved in 2010 in a protracted legal battle over having to pay a dog-licensing fee. She filed 10 sovereign documents in court over a two-month period and then declared victory when the harried prosecutor decided to drop the case.
37 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics A favorite paper terrorism strategy is the filing of frivolous lawsuits and personal liens against public officials, law enforcement officers and private citizens.
38 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics These paper "attacks" intimidate their targets and have the beneficial side effect of clogging up a court system that sovereign citizens believe is illegitimate.
39 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Although these strategies are primarily considered frivolous, filed liens have lead to government officials credit ratings being negatively impacted.
40 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Three sovereign citizens were convicted of mail fraud In New York after filing fake indictments and sending fake bills, totaling $1.24 trillion, to government officials.
41 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Frivolous liens became such a problem in the 1990s that a majority of states were forced to pass new laws to make filing them illegal, their removal easier, or both.
43 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics In addition to using the Internet to download a variety of boilerplate forms and documents to wield against the government, how to books, e-based and on-site training programs are available to assist sovereign citizens.
44 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics ScamsSovereign citizens also have a number of other weapons at their disposal. Many have engaged in a variety of frauds and scams, often targeting people with similar ideological beliefs in what might be called affinity fraud.
45 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics A few of these schemes, most notably those perpetrated by the Colorado-based We the People and the Florida-based Greater Ministries International in the 1990s, took in millions of dollars.
46 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Other sovereign citizen groups, like the Embassy of Heaven and the Washitaw Nation, have specialized in the creation of fictitious car-related documents ranging from drivers' licenses to license plates.
47 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics In Sacramento, two sovereign citizens were convicted of running a fraudulent insurance scheme. Operating outside state insurance regulatory guidelines, the men set up their own company and sold "lifetime memberships" to customers, promising to pay any accident claims against their "members." The company collected millions of dollars, but paid out very few claims.
48 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics In Kansas City, three sovereign citizens were convicted of taking part in a conspiracy using phony diplomatic credentials. They charged customers between $450 and $2,000 for a diplomatic identification card, which would bestow upon the holder "sovereign" status—meaning they would enjoy diplomatic immunity from paying taxes and from being stopped or arrested by law enforcement.
49 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics In Las Vegas, four men affiliated with the sovereign citizen movement were arrested by the Nevada Joint Terrorism Task Force on federal money laundering, tax evasion, and weapons charges. The investigation involved an undercover operation, with two of the suspects allegedly laundering more than a million dollars from what they believed was a bank fraud scheme.
50 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Potential for ViolenceSovereign citizen criminal activity includes violent acts, exemplified recently by the brutal murder of two West Memphis police officers at the hands of a father and son pair of sovereign citizens in May 2010.
51 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Spontaneous sovereign citizen violence, especially during traffic stops and visits to residences, poses a significant risk to law enforcement officers and public officials.
52 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics In Ohio, a sovereign named Michael Hill pulled a gun on an officer during a traffic stop. Hill was killed.
53 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics New Hampshire extremist Carl Drega shot dead two officers and two civilians, and wounded another three officers before being killed himself.
54 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics In Idaho, when brothers Doug and Craig Broderick were pulled over for failing to signal, they killed one officer and wounded another before being killed themselves in a violent gun battle.
55 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics In December 2003, members of the Bixby family, who lived outside of Abbeville, S.C., killed two law enforcement officers in a dispute over a small sliver of land next to their home.
56 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics March 11, 2011 Fairbanks, AlaskaFive people, including militia activist Schaeffer Cox, were arrested Thursday in the Fairbanks area for allegedly conspiring to kill multiple Alaska State Troopers and a federal judge.
57 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics The group had stockpiled weapons and conducted surveillance on the homes of two troopers, according to Alaska State Troopers. Some of the weapons known to be in the cache are prohibited by state or federal law, according to troopers.
58 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics The most infamous attack occurred in West Memphis where 2 officers were killed by a father and son team of sovereign citizens during a traffic stop in May 2010.
59 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Image from officers vehicle surveillance camera:
60 Sovereign Citizen …Tactics Suspects…..later killed:Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son Joe
61 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Law enforcement professionals are more likely to encounter dangerous extremists than virtually any other segment of American society — and those confrontations are, tragically, sometimes fatal.
62 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Any response to the Sovereign Citizen movement must begin with an understanding of the movement's origins within a group who feel they have been disenfranchised.
63 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response While understanding Sovereign Citizen legal theory may be difficult to ask of anyone, an effective response also requires awareness of their arguments, logic, and tactics.
64 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response It is crucial to be able to identify Sovereign Citizen activities in order to sanction abusive Sovereign Citizen litigants, prevent the use of destructive tactics, and thwart for-profit Sovereign Citizen theorists.
65 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Unfortunately for law enforcement, self-described "sovereign citizens" don't come with a warning label.
66 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response The ideology of the sovereign citizen movement has spread to the point where adherents hail from any race and are found throughout the nation.
67 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response And they do not all necessarily carry fake license plates or bear other obvious markers.
68 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Still, there are common traits that law enforcement officers can and should be on the alert for.
69 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response License plates with oddball names Like the "Kingdom of Heaven" and the "Little Shell Pembina Band," which is a fake Indian tribe that runs a redemption scam.
76 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Unusual use of outdated language. A simple question like, "Where are you headed?" may get you a response along the lines of, "I am a free man, traveling upon the land."
77 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response An arrogant or belligerent attitude. Sovereigns believe that they have secret knowledge about a complex government conspiracy that most Americans, including law enforcement officials, are too stupid to comprehend.
78 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Anti-Federal Reserve or banking commentsEven though all you are discussing is a driver's license, registration tags or traffic infractions. Anger towards other government agencies such as FEMA, the EPA, the U.S. Post Office and the Census Bureau is common.
79 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Unsolicited anti-Semitic commentsEither outright or veiled.
80 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Odd punctuation of namesTypically involving colons and hyphens.
81 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response The absence of a zip codeIn suspects addresses (sometimes, the zip code is present, but placed in brackets).
82 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Judges and law enforcement officers, officials, and members of the public must understand Sovereign Citizen arguments sufficiently to be able to engage them in a dialogue that will enhance their ability to bring the encounter to a successful conclusion.
83 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response Resources:Southern Poverty Law Center
84 Sovereign Citizen …Police Response And Remember….Stay Safe Out There