9/7/2010Texas Appeals Court Denies Sovereign Citizen Defense
Texas Appeals Court rules that a person cannot escape a traffic ticket by asserting that one is a sovereign.
It is not a defense to a speeding ticket to claim that you are sovereign, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled last month. Austin Police Officer Tammy Barrett had pulled over Justin Wayne Gray after he passed through a school zone while allegedly driving 44 MPH in a 20 zone on December 4, 2008. When Barrett asked Gray for his license and registration, his response was unusual.
"I am Texas Republican sovereignty," Gray said. "I do not recognize this as a legal traffic stop."
Gray then handed Barrett a piece of paper with his name and date of birth. Barrett verified this information and found that Gray's driver's license had been suspended. Barrett then arrested Gray. Before the trial, Gray filed an "Affidavit of Truth" that asserted he was a "sovereign man" and "a living, flesh and blood son of God by the Christian name of Justin Wayne Gray." As a sovereign, he argued that the state of Texas had no jurisdiction to put him on trial. A Travis County jury found Gray guilty, and Judge Carlos Humberto Barrera sentenced him to 45 days in jail and a $250 fine. On appeal, Justice Bob Pemberton found no merit in Gray's argument.
"Gray characterizes himself as a sovereign exempt from the laws of this state," Pemberton wrote. "We disagree. A 'person,' as that term is defined by statute, means an individual, corporation, or association. An 'individual' means a human being who is alive. Gray is a person subject to the laws of this state. We overrule Gray's third issue."
The appeals court also found that Barrett had probable cause to conduct a traffic stop. Once stopped, the arrest for driving on a suspended license was justified because Gray's license was, in fact, suspended at the time of the stop. The court overruled Gray's objection to the use of his name which was misspelled in court documents as "JUSTIN WADE GRADY." Gray insisted that the all-capital letters could not apply to him because only the initial letters of his name are capitalized.
"The record reflects that at the beginning of the proceedings, the state misspelled Gray's middle and last names in the manner indicated above," Pemberton wrote. "However, Gray brought the misspelling to the attention of the trial court and the misspelling was subsequently corrected. The amended information, jury charge, and judgment of conviction all reflect the correct spelling of Gray's name.... We affirm the judgment of the trial court."
A copy of the decision is available in an 85k PDF file at the source link below.