Self-described sovereign citizens take the position that they will only answer to natural law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, states or municipal levels.
“The idea of sovereignty is there’s no jurisdiction. There’s nothing above me,” said Det. Kory Flowers of the Greensboro Police Dept.
Sovereign is defined as “possessing supreme or ultimate power.” Those that declare themselves sovereign only believe in their authority. Becoming a sovereign citizen starts with a tangible declaration.
“I, James Ronald of the Peggs family, am a natural, free-born sovereign without subjects,” said James Peggs, a sovereign individual.
Peggs is one of 300,000 Americans the FBI classifies as a sovereign citizen. Peggs doesn’t like that term because citizen means “subject of.”
“I am not in any jurisdiction, for I am not subject status,” said Peggs.
Peggs does not pay taxes and believes currency is worthless. The only laws he observes are those he agrees to follow, discarding those he says are not legitimate.
“No such laws nor their enforcers have any authority over me,” said Peggs. “This is a way of being very much in tune with our original documents — the Declaration, the Constitution — and declaring our rights back. In other words, I’m canceling all false contracts.”
Peggs considers himself a Pacifist, and he or any other sovereign could be your neighbor. However, the FBI considers those that share Peggs’ beliefs to be anti-government extremists and potentially domestic terror threats.
“On a football field there are rules, there are sidelines and there are referees. The only that that keeps it from being a melee or a ruckus, right,” said Det. Flowers. “If you have a contingent out there that believes that the rule book just doesn’t apply to them, that’s a problem whether it’s in society or a football game. Either way it creates chaos.”
Detectives R.C. Finch and S.K. Flowers, both from Greensboro, have led efforts nationally to train law enforcement and judicial personnel on the sovereign citizen criminal subculture since 2009.
“I wouldn’t call it a cult, because with a cult you have a charismatic leader,” said Det. Flowers.
The most common way police run into sovereign individuals is during traffic stops.
“I believe the government is misusing these officers to raise money, so instead of being a protector of society, they are harassing society,” said Peggs.
In the Guilford County Register of Deeds Office, you’ll find dozens of property liens and lawsuits filed by sovereigns against public figures.
“The Guilford County DA has a $800 million lien filed against him. Our Clerk of Court has an $800 million lien. Two local law firms both have $1 million liens. Bank of America has a $200 billion lien,” said Jeff Thigpen, Guilford County Register of Deeds.
“It’s been coined as paper terrorism,” said Det. Flowers. “Some officers who just literally aren’t trained up and don’t know better often will derelict their duty because they’re afraid of getting sued and getting liens on their properties.”
While these multi-million dollar lawsuits may seem ridiculous, as Guilford Co. District Court Judge Tom Jarrell found out when he attempted to refinance his home, it’s no joke.
“The phone rings and it’s the closing attorney. He said, ‘Judge, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is you’re locked into that low rate. The bad news is you have a $70 million lien against you,” said Jarrell.
As of December 1, it’s a felony in North Carolina to file a false lien. Peggs sees it as a loss in the battle to be “truly free.”
“I’m not representing any particular group. I don’t have any axe to grind. I’m just like thousands of people across the country concerned about why things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be,” said Peggs.
Peggs said his ultimate goal is not to convert a person to being a sovereign individual, but rather get people asking questions and looking into things for themselves.