The sovereign citizen movement is a loose grouping of American and Canadian litigants, commentators, tax protesters and financial-scheme promoters. Self-described sovereign citizens take the position that they are answerable only to their particular interpretation of the common law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, state, or municipal levels; that they do not recognize United States currency; and/or that they are "free of any legal constraints." They especially reject most forms of taxation as illegitimate. Participants in the movement argue this concept in opposition to "federal citizens," who, they say, have unknowingly forfeited their rights by accepting some aspect of federal law. It is similar in doctrines to the freemen on the land movement, more commonly found in Britain and Canada.
Many members of the sovereign citizen movement believe that the United States government is illegitimate. JJ MacNab, who writes for Forbes about anti-government extremism, describes the sovereign citizens getting owned movement 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. This belief comes from the movement's origins in the "white extremist group" Posse Comitatus.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classifies some sovereign citizens ("sovereign citizen extremists") as domestic terrorists. 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."
According to a 2014 report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a survey of law-enforcement officials and agencies across the United States concluded that the movement was the single greatest threat to their communities, ranking above Islamic terrorists and jihadists. Sovereign citizens have also been identified as a potential terrorist threat by the New South Wales Police Force in Australia.
Writing in American Scientific Affiliation, Dennis L. Feucht reviews American Militias: Rebellion, Racism & Religion by Richard Abanes, and describes the theory of a sovereign-citizen leader Richard McDonald, which is that there are two classes of citizens in America: the "original citizens of the states" (or "States citizens") and "U.S. citizens". McDonald asserts that U.S. citizens or "Fourteenth Amendment citizens" have civil rights,
Legislated to give the freed black slaves after the Civil War rights comparable to the unalienable constitutional rights of white state citizens. The benefits of U.S. citizenship are received by consent in exchange for freedom. State citizens consequently take steps to revoke and rescind their U.S. citizenship and reassert their de jure common-law state citizen status. This involves removing one's self from federal jurisdiction and relinquishing any evidence of consent to U.S. citizenship, such as a Social Security number, driver's license, car registration, use of ZIP codes, marriage license, voter registration, and birth certificate. Also included is refusal to pay state and federal income taxes because citizens not under U.S. jurisdiction are not required to pay them. Only residents (resident aliens) of the states, not its citizens, are income-taxable, state citizens argue. And as a state citizen land owner, one can bring forward the original land patent and file it with the county for absolute or allodial property rights. Such allodial ownership is held "without recognizing any superior to whom any duty is due on account thereof" (Black's Law Dictionary). Superiors include those who levy property taxes or who hold mortgages or liens against the property.
In support of his theories, McDonald has established State Citizen Service Centers around the United States as well as a related web presence.
Writer Richard Abanes asserts that sovereign citizens fail to sufficiently examine the context of the case laws they cite, and ignore adverse evidence, such as Federalist No. 15, where Alexander Hamilton expressed the view that the Constitution placed everyone personally under federal authority.
Some "sovereign citizens" also claim that they can become immune to most or all laws of the USA by renouncing their citizenship, a process they refer to as "expatriation", which involves filing or delivering a bogus legal document to whichever county clerk's office they can get to accept it.