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FIRST ON 3 SPECIAL REPORT: Sovereign citizens a challenge to law


BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Imagine a world where laws don't apply to you, and you're not responsible for any taxes. So-called sovereign citizens live like that.

It's a catch-all phrase referring to people who are anti-government. Their actions have ranged from false court filings to disregarding laws to murder.

Brunswick County Sheriff's deputies ran into one during a high-speed chase recently.

"The FBI categorizes sovereign citizens as domestic terrorists," Brunswick County Sheriff's Office Capt. Mose Highsmith said.

Highsmith says at first glance, there's nothing illegal about being a sovereign citizen.

"Where things start to become illegal is that because of following that dogma, if you will, some of these people believe they don't have to have a driver's license, they don't have to pay for insurance, they don't have to have a license plate, they don't have to comply with law direction from law enforcement officers."

Case in point, a high-speed chase in Supply two months ago, where a woman refused to stop for deputies unless the count was prepared to pay her. Dep. Joe Cherry arrested Jeniffer-Melisa Herring that night.

"You do have to use the utmost caution, because you don't know what the person is willing to do, because they don't recognize you as an authority figure," Dep. Cherry said. "They do tend to recognize sheriffs over police officers for some odd reason. Sovereign citizen is a reemerging trend."

In the most extreme cases, sovereign citizens can be destructive and even deadly.

Timothy McVeigh, the man behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was a sovereign citizen. His actions killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured more than 680.

In 2010, a traffic stop in Arkansas turned into a deadly shootout between police and two sovereign citizens. Father-son duo Jerry and Joseph Kane killed two officers before officers killed them.

"If these folks hold really passionate views that the government has no authority over them they may result to violence," Highsmith said.

New Hanover County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Jerry Brewer says his agency's deputies have not had as many run-ins with sovereign citizens as those in Brunswick County, but they are prepared.

"We do training that involves learning more about sovereign citizens and their beliefs," Brewer said. "We've sent some, we've sent guys to training, and it's just something we have to be aware of."

But the threat goes beyond violence and disregard for the rule of law.

Experts say sovereign citizens use scare tactics through the very legal system they disclaim to intimidate. These actions are considered "paper terrorism." Among their tactics is filing bogus claims and false liens against officers and judges, which can destroy credit or just tie the them up in court.

Herring, who is charged with drunk driving and other offenses in that chase in Brunswick County, filed her own paperwork in Brunswick County Court, claiming she is not a member of any corporate or political body. Experts say her paperwork fits the mold of other sovereign citizens, including not capitalizing United States of America."

Whether she recognizes its jurisdiction or not, Herring is due in court next month.

Late last year, a new state law made it a felony to knowingly file a false lien or encumbrance against a public officer or employee based on that person's performance of official duties. The law also lets the register of deeds reject such a filing.

In addition to individuals, the University of North Carolina School of Government says there are several sovereign citizen groups active in our state, with names like Moorish Nation, Washitaw Nation, North Carolina American Republic and Carolina Liberty.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


What they are not telling you.

This is a fine example of unbalanced reporting. Where is the interview with a sovereign citizen to give a counter view? Much like how the state operates it gives one slanted view point from someone who earns their paycheck by trying to make others believe that the state somehow has rights above the person who is asserting their rights. Domestic terrorist? Really? So a person using the system against itself is equal to someone who would try and create terror through violence? What about a system that would use terror against those who are vulnerable and ignorant of the system and how it works? I can tell you terror comes from being dragged into the system to try and fight for your rights. Terror comes from having to deal with a group who thinks they have some kind of inherent right to deprive you because they wear a badge and you refuse to cooperate. Terror is driving down the road and seeing the blue lights behind you. Terror is calling for help and wondering if you will become the target. Terror is having to show your papers to continue traveling down the road despite the fact you were minding your own business. Terror is being coerced into admitting a crime because of threat to your family. Terror is having to drag to Bolivia one or twice a month just to wait 2 hours for them to talk about you like you are not even there for 2 minutes. Terror is being tortured into compliance by taser. Terror is wondering if your family member who has a medical issue will be locked up because they are sick and need help. Terror is the thought of living under a system so corrupt that they would protect their own even if it is obvious they were in the wrong. The law is not in place to protect anyone except the interest of those prosecuting others. DUI laws do not stop people from drinking and driving. Drug laws don't stop people from using and selling drugs. Traffic laws don't stop people from driving without insurance. Gun laws don't stop people from using guns for crime. But what they do effectively do is fatten the county and states pockets with more money so that can hire more people to control us at every turn. The same people who scoff when you assert your rights are the same ones they try and parade as people who are there to "protect and serve". There is only one interest they are "protecting and serving" and it isn't yours. If you must ask permission, then it is not a right.

Guilty until proven innocent

I never said my family was scared. In fact it is quite the opposite. The problems I stated came from simply paying attention to the news and talking to people on the street. I am indeed terrified if I believe I may have to deal with the system on any level. The impression you give me is that you love dealing with bureaucracy so much you may even work for them. But worry not. The way things are going you will have a first hand knowledge at some point and will not have to take my word for it.
Republicans or Democrats they are all one in the same. Two wings of the same bird.
So you have never encountered a road block? Have you seen the numerous cases where the police abuse people when they allege a crime has been committed? Abuse not just restraing them. Your reasoning that it hasn't happened to you only stands to show that you have been lucky. I myself have 99 problems but the police or legal issues ain't one.
Gate Keeper
You are absolutely right. The constitution doesn't afford me any rights nor does the Bill of Rights. Both LIMIT the government in the manner and scope they may deal with me. Under stand that one doesn't need to be a federal citizen to be a citizen of a state. That right is granted at birth. If you were born in the states then you were granted citizenship by the state you were born in at birth. If you are born elsewhere and become naturalized then you become a US citizen.
If it were true that my family was having problems of this nature saying or implying it is solely their fault is ignorant. Do you also look at other countries such as China and blame the people that live there for the problems caused by an oppressive government? I mean after all I am sure the government operates within their own laws even if they are oppressive. This woman is challenging the government by using their system. Why would anyone disagree with that? You would think one should be afforded all opportunities to clear her name. After all, if she is so obviously guilty as most are assuming it should be an open and shut issue. At the end of the day the take away is how the article compared her to timothy Mcveigh. How people who challenge the system are terrorist. How it is strange she has chosen to represent herself. If everyone who is charged with a crime spent half the time this woman will then the system wouldn't work. Why you ask? Because it would collapse under its own weight.

"The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny, and it is useless for the innocent to try by reasoning to get justice, when the oppressor intends to be unjust." Aesop

Laws do stop people from

Laws do stop people from doing things. There are some who will not do something simply because it is against the law. The laws may not stop everyone from doing those things you mentioned, but it will stop some. Do you really believe that everyone with car insurance does it because they want to? They simply do it because the law requires it. Drug laws may not directly deter people from doing drugs, but they do stop them by other means. Some people who get in trouble with the law over drugs actually get help that they would probably not seek otherwise. If you think the traffic laws don't affect the behavior of people, I defy you to slow down the next time you are speeding and pass a patrol car. I do believe that under the second amendment that gun laws should not be so restrictive. I believe that anyone set on murder is going to commit it by any means available, so most of the gun laws really only serve to protect the criminals.

You poor "terror-fried" person

I can certainly understand why you and your family are so "terror-fried". It must be "terror-able" for such innocent people to always have to worry that the police are out to get them, and apparently, for no reason at all!

This must be a "terror-able" country for your family to live in.

Do not despair! The rest of us are ready to help you get away from all of this. Just post your name and address and we'll all anonymously (so that you won't have to take the time to write out thank-you notes) chip in and buy you one-way tickets to safer country. One with a nice safe dictator and a nice safe para-military force. Guys you'd probably be more comfortable hanging out with.

Have a nice trip!

Hey, Truthshallemerge, you

Hey, Truthshallemerge, you are absolutely right. All that you complain of is a direct result of voting Republican.

For the 40 years I have lived here

I have been in every jerk-water town and county for 150 miles around and I never had a problem with harassment from authorities even during my long-haired-freaky-looking years. No problems with any of my family being harassed or locked up for a medical issue. Never had a cop require me to do anything that violated my civil rights. I have never been tazed,never arrested and never got a ticket I didn't deserve.

So why is it you have all these problems and I don't?

Are you a cop!

Really You are a rare person that can say they have never experienced abuse by authorities, or else you are a police officer!


Our Constitution does not afford you those rights....If you aren't a citizen of the United States of America and a sovereign citizen, then you're an illegal alien when on our soil!


That escalated quickly

That Escalted Quickly

Thanks for that comment. All I can hear is Ron Burgundy's voice in my head following up that comment with "Stay classy Wilmington."

Seems like the government

Seems like the government labels anyone as "terrorists" who does not fully comply with their laws and guidelines regardless of how opressive. Big Brother is simply afraid that the trend will progress on a larger scale.

Deputy Joe Cherry is an

Deputy Joe Cherry is an idiot. Where did he get the idea that these people tend to listen to Deputies over Police? Blue lights are blue lights. Sounds like he has a misconstrued sense of self and holds himself, and all other Sheriff's Deputies, in a seemingly omnipotent light. I have personally spoken with Cherry before and am not impressed with his false intellect. "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open ones mouth and remove all doubt" ­­- Mark Twain

Deputy Cherry is likely

Deputy Cherry is likely right in his assessment of THIS "local chapter" of the Sovereign Citizen movement. There are countless variants of the movement in a spectrum as harmless as refusing to register vehicles and pay traffic tickets to the angry, aggressive and armed militia types dedicated to the violent overthrow of the government.

This local contingent of Sovereigns may very well recognize some authority and jurisdiction of the local sheriff and deputies.

Some Sovereigns are quite adept at gaming the system, particularly for their own financial gain. Here's a current case that is about ready to go to trial:

This recent news report show's the defendant's vexatious behavior toward the judge and court:

Not really

Their way of thinking is the Sheriff is elected by the people therefor he/she is a representative of the people. Deputies are then hired under the sheriff and are his/her representatives. Police chiefs are hired by city government therefor they represent government.

I know both police departments and sheriff's departments are part of government but the sovereign citizens see it differently.

he's right..

Actually Dep. Cherry is right in some cases the sovereign citizens tend to recognize the sheriff as being the highest form of law in the county. They do tend to listen to the sheriff more so than the police. It has nothing to do with blue lights. They feel that the sheriff is of higher authourity than policeman. It is there odd way of thinking, on that note before you go piping off at the mouth guest28451 you might want to know what you are talking about before you remove all doubt. This sir is intended for you "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open ones mouth and remove all doubt" - Mark Twain

Our own govt does not even

Our own govt does not even follow the law......

Yes they do

just ask them. They will tell you....

bunch of bums

Yet another bunch of crazy right wingers that think they are entitled to ignore laws and use public roads and other resources for free.

What makes you

think they are right wingers or are you just a Government, social media plant?

It sounds

sort of socialist to me. They want the majority of us to pay for all of the facilities that they want to use. Talk about entitlements! They should move to Idaho with all the other Randy Weaver types and just have a ball with all the other crazies.

Ah, yes....

Randy Weaver. Ruby Ridge, where our Government shot Randy Weavers unarmed Wife and child dead. Oh and of course the family dog. USA#1. "the Weaver family moved to a remote mountaintop to escape what they viewed as a sinful world. Randy Weaver lived with his wife and four children in a cabin he himself built on Ruby Ridge. The cabin had no electricity or running water. According to friends, the Weavers simply wanted to be left alone as they awaited Armageddon." Then, 400 FBI, police and US military converged on Ruby Ridge under Janet Reno (how soon we forget) and this fueled anti-government sentiments, which eventually played a role in the Waco, Oklahoma City, and the Freemen conflict as well as Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the government building in Oklahoma City. Thanks for reminding me.


If Randy Weaver would have shown up to court n the first place for the ILLEGAL weapons charge, then his wife and child would be alive today. My My how we forget the details.

you can't be serious???

guest8675309 "If Randy Weaver would have shown up to court n the first place for the ILLEGAL weapons charge, then his wife and child would be alive today."

Really? so if I don't go to court on "charges" of something that means the government has the right to KILL my family?

What country do you live in? Because I live in the United States of America which happens to be a Constitutional Republic. Meaning that I and any other citizen of this country have a Constitutional right to due process.

The sixth Amendment gives EVERYONE the right to a fair trial. Oh yes...I forgot...that pesky Constitution just keeps getting in the way doesn't it? After all it is just an out dated document that doesn't apply to today....

Stay off my lawn!

If you don't recognize our laws or acknowledge my country, stay off our property, you are an illegal alien and aren't welcome. Don't drive on our roads, taxpayers own them and you are trespassing. Don't send your kids to our schools, we paid for ours to be there, you did not. Don't use our airspace unless you ask first, it's our territory and all foreign aircraft must seek permission. Don't use our waterways, until your 3 miles offshore and out of our territory, we don't allow foreign countries to use them without permits, why should we let you. I other words... stay on your sovereign property and we'll stay on ours. Good Luck!

Gate Keeper - my thoughts

Gate Keeper - my thoughts exactly. I'll even add something here. How many of these people are on some type of assistance (food stamps, etc)?. Then to them I say - get off the assistance. You don't deserve it and didn't earn it since you don't recognize our laws, rules or regulations. By the way, you might want to get rid of all the money you have - after all, it is made by the government you fail to recognize.

Move on elsewhere - goodbye and don't come back.

Gate the

Gate the story. It is not about illegal aliens.


Guest666 I did read... If you aren't a citizen of the United States of America or renounce your citizenship, or claim your a sovereign citizen, then you're an illegal alien when on our soil.... PERIOD!

I disagree

It IS about illegal aliens. If a US citizen denounces the US and declares themself "sovereign" then they are on US soil illegally. They do not want to abide by our laws, pay our taxes and contribute to our communities= get out and stay out, you don't belong here.

With you all the way...

These folks want to use everything the "system" provides yet they don't recognize it? Move your tails outta here and form your own country for idiots....

Legalize weed and Ill chill

Legalize weed and Ill chill out. its a stupid law.