What is a 'Sovereign Citizen'?
The ideas of the "sovereign citizens" movement originate in the ideology of the Posse Comitatus, an anti-Semitic group that raged through the Midwest in the late 1970s and 1980s. Sovereign citizens claim that they are not subject to most taxes, are not citizens of the United States (but instead are "non-resident aliens"), cannot be tried for crimes in which there is no complaining victim (zoning and professional licensing violations, for instance), and are only subject to "common law courts," a sort of people's tribunal with no lawyers. Most refuse to obtain Social Security cards, register their vehicles, carry driver's licenses or use zip codes; many refer to UCC-107, a part of the Uniform Commercial Code, to justify their bizarre claims; and some use weird forms of punctuation between their middle and last names in all kinds of documents. Sovereign citizens also often distinguish between so-called "14th Amendment citizens," who are subject to federal and state governments, and themselves, who are also known as "organic citizens" — an ideology that causes adherents to claim that black people, who only became legal citizens when the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War, have far fewer rights than whites. Some of the more famous adherents of sovereign citizens ideology include Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and members of the Montana Freemen.