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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.



The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classifies "sovereign citizens" among domestic terror threats as anti-government extremists. In 2010 the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) estimated that approximately 100,000 Americans were "hard-core sovereign believers" with another 200,000 "just starting out by testing sovereign techniques for resisting everything from speeding tickets to drug charges.".

What idiots !!

weed should be legal

weed should be legal

Maybe these sovereign

Maybe these sovereign citizens are on to something. Sounds like a plan, to me. I don't mind laws that protect, but those which do nothing but harass and take away rights when no one is in danger are questionable.

This is why Oathkeepers is so important!

In the event of a governmental coup in America, would your law enforcement PROTECT the PEOPLE, or OBEY the 'government' ?

Challenge every LEO and exmilitary person to take the pledge! Let's see who does and who refuses ...

Sovereign citizens are

Sovereign citizens are nothing more than home grown terrorists. They don't believe in the system yet they choose to live in it. They are often reckless and armed, posing a direct danger to any figure of authority they cross. They feel they are above the government and do not have to pay taxes, register vehicles, or obey ANY US Constitutional law. Is the American system perfect? No not by a long shot. But I would rather live with it than live next to one of these people.

I expect this is the way the

I expect this is the way the British felt about the American settlers just before the Revolutionary War.

That's fine

If they feel that way, then why don't they just settle somewhere else where they can live their lives with abandon and not have any laws or pay taxes. I am tired of paying taxes for others that don't feel the need. I doubt anyone would stop them if they left the United States. It's obvious they don't want to be citizens here - they just want to pick and choose which laws they want to obey, but yet they expect to have all rights and privileges of being a citizen. Give me a break.


more the government tries to grab control from the people...the more of this you are going to see.


you mean like with the Patriot Act?

Yes like the Patriot & the NDAA

I can see the ignorance of our population is overflowing here...the Patriot Act and the NDAA are great examples of how the government is ushering in legislation to gain an upper-hand on American citizens. It seems that when the USA got tired of policing the world around us, they started to police the US.
This article states that officers have been sent to "training"..but they probably sent them to learn the law. A sovereign citizen knows the law and can not be manipulated by fear tactics or ignorance. The article also states that a law was passed so that no one could file false complaints or liens on officials. Where is the law that protects citizens from false charges?? or how about trumped up charges??
Pay attention to the rise of our populous and the incrementation of our police state b/c its coming. Now police don't even want to be filmed...if they are doing their jobs in a law abiding manner why not let them be filmed? What about the attack on our Constitutional Bill of Rights, specifically the 1st, 2nd & 4th amendment?
At this rate, we will have NO RIGHTS.

The attack on sovereign citizens is hitting close to home with this article and more and more it seems that an educated public can shake the system. They are scared, they are fearful, they are reacting to those of us who are awake.
Like George Carlin said..."Its called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it..."