Spring 2017

Understanding the Sovereign Citizen Movement By: Dr. Brett Meade, Deputy Chief of Police, University of Central Florida Police Department

In February the Florida Police Chiefs Association sent out a Red Alert from the Florida Attorney General’s Office regarding a “Newly Reformed” Government of the United States of America 1781 and the North Amer- ican National Party. The documents and websites have a common theme, that the United States Government is not legitimate. This position is common in the world of sovereign citizens, who believe that each individual is a “sovereign” unto themselves and not subject to legislative or federal government laws and regulations. Law enforcement officers may encounter sovereign citizens on traffic stops, protection orders, eviction notic- es, warrant service, regular calls for service, and court appearances. Court personnel, Clerks of Court, city and county services, Supervisors of Elections, and other governmental entities have had documented en- counters with sovereigns. Although there are some organized groups, all with different ideologies and be- liefs, there is no national encompassing organization or hierarchy.

It is important to understand that claiming to be a sovereign citizen is protected by the United States Constitution, and the majority of those within the sovereign citizen move- ment or sympathetic with sovereign philosophies are not violent. However, when their theories and actions cross into criminal behavior and activities, law enforcement agen- cies need to have knowledge as to how to recognize they are dealing with someone with anti-government beliefs and must have an effective and consistent plan to handle en- counters. Most importantly, those in public service should understand that when inter- acting with a sovereign you do not know their level of commitment to the cause, their motivation, or the level of frustration they are experiencing due to governmental enti- ties not heeding their demands, which may dictate their actions and confrontational be- havior.

The State of Florida is a hot bed for sovereign activity. Law enforcement, Clerks of Court, and the judiciary in virtually every county have had documented encounters, of which several were video recorded by sovereigns themselves and then posted on the internet. Violent encounters have occurred across the United States and Florida, including Santa Rosa County, Sumter County, and Orange County. In Orange County, a suspect claiming to be sovereign was killed in a shootout with deputies in which two deputy sheriffs were also shot and wounded. Prior to the encounter, the deputies received departmental training on sovereign citizens and developed a tactical plan to affect the arrest of the suspect. This strategic pre-planning minimized what would have been a much worse situation when the suspect opened fire. Jerry and Joseph Kane were father and son sovereigns that lived in the Tampa area and were enroute back to Florida whey they shot and killed West Memphis Arkansas Police Sergeant Brandon Paudert and Police Officer Bill Evans.

At a recent court hearing, Markeith Loyd, the suspect who shot and killed Orlando Police Department Lieu- tenant Deborah Clayton, used sovereign terminology stating, ““For the record, I want to state that I am Markeith Loyd, flesh and blood. I’m a human being. I’m not a fictitious person. I’m not a corporation, there- fore, I am going to tell you the fact, I am in due court, I accept the charges value,” Loyd added. “I want to use my UCC [Uniform Commercial Code] financial statement, my number, to write these charges off.” Typically, sovereigns proclaim that the judiciary and all courts represent corporate maritime law as opposed to com- mon law and therefore do not have jurisdiction over them. Some believe courtrooms are designed to resem- ble the bow of a ship, and are concerned with the United States flag with gold fringes, both of which in their view represent maritime commerce law.

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