What happens when a ‘sovereign citizen’ meets a calm and polite police officer

The ‘sovereign citizen’ movement consists of people who have their own interpretation of their rights and obligations under the US constitution. Via Mark Frauenfelder, I came across this fascinating video of a woman who, at a traffic stop, challenges the right of a California police officer to detain her, saying that because she is a sovereign citizen, she can claim all the rights of citizenship without obeying any of its laws. The driver of the car apparently did not have a license, presumably because as a sovereign citizen, he does not need the state’s permission to drive.

The way the woman argues was interesting in that she seemed absolutely confident that she was exempt from following the laws. I was wondering what the woman sought to gain by demanding that he call in a superior officer. Did she really expect the sheriff to say that the police officer was wrong and she was right? And if the sheriff upheld the officer, as is certain to happen, would she demand to see an even higher officer? How high was she expecting to go? The governor of the state? The Supreme Court?

Whenever I see such videos, I always wonder if a black man or woman were to behave like this what might have happened. Most black people, especially men, are advised when dealing with the police at a traffic stop, to be polite, obey lawful orders, keep their hands visible at all times, and not make any sudden moves, all of which this woman felt free to ignore with impunity.

This particular officer seems very professional, calm and polite, but that may be because he did not feel under any threat. But given the tension between black men and the police, the situation could easily have escalated with the officer feeling that the aggression was a prelude to an attack on him, and responding pre-emptively with force.


  1. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I thought the Articles of Confederation were superseded by the US Constitution, and have been null and void for over two centuries.

  2. Bakunin says

    Mano, one of the chief tenents of SC is the belief that the county sheriff is the highest legitimate authority, so if the sheriff didn’t back her the next step wuld probably be screeching about impeaching the sheriff and the usual avalanche of absurd legal briefs.

  3. tbtabby says

    Not even the first time I’ve seen this happen. But two things sour it in my eyes: the knowledge that she’d probably have been shot dead for trying this if she weren’t white, and the fact that the Manosphere is going to use her cries of “RAPE!” as proof that false rape accusation is a regular occurrence.

  4. lorn says

    Obviously the office is not under a lot of time pressure. Had the officer been pressed for time, stressed and out of sorts coming from a traumatic event he might have had less patience. If he would have felt under threat the whole thing might have gone a different way.

    Quite frankly, and noting that I’m not a particularly violent person, I had a definite urge to smack the lady. I’m not saying that I would. But the idea did cross my mind. We didn’t get to see all of it but I think the officer showed remarkable restraint.

    Such arguments are generally best handled by telling it to the judge.

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