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What are Sovereign Citizens?

You might not have heard of them, but they could cause your district big problems. Here’s what to watch out for and how to handle them.

At the core, a sovereign citizen is an individual residing within the United States who believes they do not have to answer to government authority, including courts, taxing entities, and law enforcement. The FBI categorizes them as a kind of domestic terrorist and says that somewhere around 300,000 operate within the country.

Instead of answering to the authority of the United States federal government or local governments, sovereign citizens believe they are subject to the “common law,” or “constitutional law,” that existed before the 14th Amendment was ratified. The 14th Amendment opens with the statement, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States […] are citizens of the United States…” and sovereign citizens believe erroneously that this revoked their individual rights.

Presumed Responsibilities

Some members of the sovereign citizen movement believe in something known as “The Strawman Theory.” This theory holds that an individual has two personas: one is a real-life human being, and the other is a separate legal entity, known as a “strawman.” This idea is used by sovereign citizens to separate themselves from the debts, liabilities, taxes, and legal responsibilities that belong solely to the “strawman.” In these cases, the actual person owes no one anything, and therefore it is impossible for debts to come due or for the individual to face justice.

Tactics

Essentially, the sovereign citizen line of thought suggests that the United States is a corporation, not a country, and therefore, all laws fall under the umbrella of international commerce law or admiralty law. This results in the categorizing of all legal matters as contract disputes, a tactic that attempts to delegitimize any contract since all parties, i.e. the sovereign citizen, did not voluntarily agree to enter it. This explains why sovereign citizens often refuse to sign their names, acknowledge legal notices, or pay bills.

The primary weapon for sovereign citizens is paper, and lots of it. Their tactic is used to combat the government by essentially stalling the legal process. This includes the filing of false liens, lawsuits, and tax forms with the additional intent of ruining an enemy’s credit rating or encouraging an IRS audit. While Colorado has laws that can protect public service members from this sort of harassment, the economic and emotional damage is already done.

While not every action committed by sovereign citizens is illegal, the FBI points out that their actions can be quite alarming. In addition to the aforementioned, sovereign citizens have been known to commit murder and physical assault, threaten judges, law enforcement, and government officials, impersonate police officers, and create fake license plates and driver’s licenses.

Safety

When dealing with a sovereign citizen, the only effective way of handling the situation is to remain as unengaged as possible. Allow for law enforcement and the subsequent due process of the law to deal with an altercation. Regardless if the problem is with an overdue bill, a squatter on private property, or any other matter involving federal, state, or local government, follow the legal processes in place and let the system work as it is supposed to.

Experiences

While we do not have all the answers, we are interested in continuing a dialogue on this subject. Altercations with sovereign citizens are exceptionally rare, they may happen from time to time. If you have any experiences with a sovereign citizen in your district, or have had one in the past, please let us know.

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