Prosecutors in Davis County, Utah, declined to press charges in the traffic stop death of Chase Allan, who espoused sovereign citizen rhetoric before being shot by police earlier this year.
Allan was pulled over in a parking lot in Farmington, Utah, on March 1 for having a fake license plate fixed to his unregistered vehicle. The fake plate on Allan’s vehicle had all the hallmarks of a sovereign citizen; someone with fringe beliefs that they are not required to follow everything from local traffic laws to federal prosecutors. When Allan was pulled over, he insisted he did not need to respond to police commands or answer their questions, from the Salt Lake City Tribune:
An officer tells him if he doesn’t get out of the vehicle on his own, they will “break the window and pull you out.”
As the officers pulled open a door to Allan’s car, one began shouting that he had a gun. The officers stepped back and began firing. Allan was struck multiple times. When officers pulled him out of the car and began attempting life-saving procedures, an empty holster could be seen on Allan’s right hip, and a handgun could be seen on the driver’s-side floorboard, according to the police body camera footage.
Allan wasn’t killed over a fake license plate but rather a credible threat to police lives, prosecutors determined. The Tribune is careful to identify Allan as a “suspected” sovereign citizen, but this is a misunderstanding of the movement. It’s not like an ideology you pay dues towards. There is no membership card. Instead a sovereign citizen is anyone who espouses the ideas Allan did during his traffic stop—that they are a special kind of citizen above the law. Such people will sometimes return their social security cards, or claim that the person the government knows as their identity is a straw man they have no connection with. Some defendants prosecuted for their actions on January 6 attempted to use SC arguments with disastrous results.
It may not surprise you that SC beliefs are not successful arguments either in front of police or judges. Because most Americans interact with the police mainly during traffic stops, pulling over a sovereign citizen can be a dicey experience for police. A July 4, 2021, traffic stop led to a nine-hour stand-off between police and a SC-related group called the Rise of the Moors, according to CBS.
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