Sovereign Citizen Defense: “Not guilty because my name is in all caps”

Pity this poor probation officer. Probationer James Earl Davis (as distinguished from JAMES EARL DAVIS) insisted that if his probation officer sent him another letter, that he would charge the officer $500,000 for each time he used his copyrighted name. Thus, the probation officer should just leave him alone, and not worry about whether he was violating his probation. United States v. Davis, (11th Cir. 2013).

Likewise, it can’t be proper for an unrecognized sovereign, like a county,  to impose taxes on allodial land (absolute ownership of land not subject to any superior). State ex rel. Williamson Cnty. v. Jesus Christ's Church, (Tenn. App. 2011).

As illogical as these arguments may seem, they have been tried and tried, to no avail. The philosophy behind these arguments comes from the “sovereign citizen” movement.

A “sovereign citizen” is sovereign over herself, and subject to no one.

At bottom, a defendant pursuing a sovereign-citizen strategy claims that a federal court has no jurisdiction to try him for the federal crimes with which he is charged. The defendant purports to rely heavily on the Uniform Commercial Code ("UCC"), admiralty laws, and other commercial statutes to argue that, because he has made no contract with the Court or the prosecutor, neither entity can foist any agreement upon him. The criminal code is apparently not one of the groups of statutes whose validity the defendant will acknowledge. Accordingly, the defendant contends that he cannot be found guilty of any violation of federal criminal laws.

The sovereign-citizen defendant typically files lots of rambling, verbose motions and, in court proceedings, will often refuse to respond coherently to even the simplest question posed by the Court. Each question by the judge is volleyed back with a question as to what is the judge's claim and by what authority is the judge even asking a question. When referred to as the defendant or by his name, the defendant will frequently indicate that there is no proof that he is the defendant, but that instead he is a third-party intervenor.

United  States  v.  Perkins, (N.D. Ga. 2013).


A sovereign citizen typically believes that most people have been tricked into becoming “citizens by entering into ‘contracts’ embodied in such documents as birth certificates and social security cards.” Cooper v. United States, (C.C. 2012). The contract creates a legal fiction, an ens legis (a creationof law, like a corporation), which is the person’s name in all capital letters. This “citizen” and her property is then responsible for the national debt and subject to US tax law, etc.

How to Free Oneself from this Oppression

One method of overcoming this ens legis is to file a UCC financing statement naming herself in all caps as the debtor, and her real name (first letter in caps) as the secured party. This doesn’t actually work, of course.

Several regional cases illustrate the frustrating and futile nature of this strategy:

In United States v.  Degaule, 797 F.Supp.2d 1332 (N.D. Ga. 2011), the defendant required officers to fill out questionnaires and sign an oath before speaking with her. The questionnaire sought personal information of the officer, and then affirmations that any information from the defendant would be protected and not used against her, including a promise that the officer would “uphold the U.S. Constitution.”

In Cooper v. United States, (C.C. 2012), the court had great difficulty in determining what a Texas federal inmate was asking for but denied his petition for governmental release of a ship and a $30 billion debt.

In State v. Williams, (Tenn. App. 2012), a criminal defendant argued he had fundamental freedom to travel without license. He argued he couldn’t be convicted of driving on a suspended license as he never had a Tennessee license and didn’t want one. Further, he was “not traveling in commerce” and therefore no state could impose any driving regulations on him. The defendant referred to himself as the "Attorney in Fact" for the "legal fiction" of "Anthony Troy Williams."

In Ralph v. State, (Tenn. Crim. App. 2012), a defendant was appointed counsel but, just before trial, asked the trial court to allow him to proceed pro se. He was allowed to represent himself but appointed counsel was instructed to sit with him during trial (“hybrid representation”). He was then convicted of drug charges and sought to appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant was upset that trial counsel wouldn’t do the things he wanted done. He complained that counsel wouldn’t ask deputies certain questions at trial, even though he could ask them himself. He also complained counsel wouldn’t sign a contract with him. That contract would have required trial counsel to pay the Petitioner $1,000,000 "in silver coins" for every violation of the Petitioner's "civil rights" that the Petitioner felt occurred during the prosecution of this case.

Is this just a trick/ foolish belief, or is there a genuine argument that citizenship and its attendant responsibilities shouldn’t be imposed on us?