How the Sovereign Citizen Movement Works

Why Do People Believe Sovereign Citizen Ideology?

People who buy into sovereign citizen ideas generally fall into three categories:

True Believers. People in this group have strong anti-government beliefs, and they use (or create) sovereign citizen legal theories to justify their refusal to cooperate with a government they staunchly hate. They really believe the wild conspiracies about the government being controlled by Jews and secret treaties.

The Financially Troubled. Sometimes people run into money trouble. They fall behind on their taxes, rack up a ton of credit card debt or have medical bills they can't possibly pay. When they stumble across sovereign citizen ideology, it seems like a magic wand. By simply saying certain words in court or filing papers with the county renouncing the 14th Amendment, they believe they can instantly be free of the crushing debt that keeps them awake at night.

The Gurus. These sovereign citizens sell instructional videos and books to the Financially Troubled. Some of the Gurus are also True Believers, but it's likely many of them use the promises of sovereign citizenship solely to make money.

In his refutation of sovereign citizen tactics, Justice Rooke noted that sovereign tactics are intentionally as complex and arcane as possible. This plays well for both the conspiracy theorists, who claim to know important secrets about the world, and for people with money trouble, because it suggests they need to pay a guru to help them understand baroque legal maneuvers [source: Rooke]. If you're $100,000 in debt, why not pay $1,000 for some DVDs that will explain how saying "I'm not a person" and signing your name with your footprints in blue ink will get you out of paying the bill?

There's one other factor to consider regarding sovereign citizen tactics: Even the True Believers know these methods probably won't work. For many sovereign citizens, confronting judges and police officers with their legal theories is a performance. Their hope is that once the rest of the world sees the "injustice" that happens as a result, like a fine or jail time, it will rise up and overthrow the corrupt government.

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