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    8 years, 6 months ago

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Posted:  8 years, 5 months ago

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Can CDL drivers claim personal sovereignty rights?

Perhaps some of you have heard of car drivers claiming "the common law right to travel", and signing tickets with "without prejudice, all common law rights reserved, no contract" above their signature on the ticket. CDL drivers are,of course, "driving in commerce", so I'm wondering whether or not they can do the sorts of things I mentioned.

In short: No.

The "personal sovereignty" theory has no legal basis. Every court that has dealt with the issue has rejected these contentions, most frequently in the context of tax cases. You may recall actor Wesley Snipes tried this approach to evade federal taxes; he got three years in the slammer.

If you would like to see how much credence a federal appellate court gives to this argument, check out United States v. Schneider (no, not the trucking company), 910 F.2d 1569 (7th Cir. 1990). Courts usually come down hard pretty hard on "sovereign citizen" defendants. To quote influential 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner in Schneider: "Persons who do not merely violate the law, but flout it, can expect to be punished more severely than persons who do not thus season their criminality with effrontery."

While the idea of asserting personal sovereignty seems attractive when dealing with a seemingly ever increasing percentage of arrogant law enforcement personnel, be careful. Cops around the country have a had a number of run-ins with "sovereign citizens," with some fatalities. (See, e.g., two West Memphis police officers gunned down in 2010.) The word is out among the law enforcement community. Advancing a sovereignty argument with the authorities is unlikely to persuade and could backfire.

Best advice when dealing with law enforcement on the road: stay cool, respectful, and reasonable. You have almost no leverage out there. Better to live to drive another day.

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