Sovereign citizen movement

The sovereign citizen movement is a loose grouping of primarily American litigants, commentators, tax protesters, and financial-scheme promoters, who see themselves as answerable only to their particular interpretations of the common law and as not subject to any government statutes or proceedings.[1] In the United States, they do not recognize U.S. currency and maintain that they are "free of any legal constraints".[2][3][4] They especially reject most forms of taxation as illegitimate.[5] Participants in the movement argue this concept in opposition to the idea of "federal citizens", who, they say, have unknowingly forfeited their rights by accepting some aspect of federal law.[6] The doctrines of the movement resemble those of the freemen on the land movement more commonly found in the British Commonwealth, such as Australia and Canada.[7][8][9][10]

Many members of the sovereign citizen movement believe that the United States government is illegitimate.[11] The sovereign citizen movement has been described as consisting of individuals who believe that the county sheriff is the most powerful law-enforcement officer in the country, with authority superior to that of any federal agent, elected official, or local law-enforcement official.[12] The movement can be traced back to white-extremist groups like Posse Comitatus and the constitutional militia movement.[13] It also includes members of certain self-declared "Moorish" sects.[14]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classifies some sovereign citizens ("sovereign citizen extremists") as domestic terrorists.[15] 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".[16]

In surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015, representatives of U.S. law enforcement ranked the risk of terrorism from the sovereign citizen movement higher than the risk from any other group, including Islamic extremists, militias, racists, and neo-Nazis.[17][18] The New South Wales Police Force in Australia has also identified sovereign citizens as a potential terrorist threat.[19]