A remarkable number of people believe that most of one's legal troubles can be cured by declaring oneself to be an independent sovereign nation. Usually this has to do with tax issues, as we saw a while back when a couple in Florida declared themselves independent. (They did continue to collect Social Security payments from the United States government, possibly as tribute?) But in this case, the doctrine was invoked by the Republic of Scott Witmer, which on March 10th declared itself immune from DUI charges in Pennsylvania.
Witmer, 44, told Judge Leonard Zito that Pennsylvania courts and police have no jurisdiction over him because he's his own country. "I live inside myself, not in Pennsylvania," he said at a hearing. Most judges probably would not want their jurisdiction to extend inside Scott Witmer, but unfortunately for the defendant it was sufficient that a bailiff could grab him by his outside parts and toss him into jail.
Back the next day, Witmer again contended he was challenging the traffic stop on sovereign grounds. "Don't all our souls live within ourselves?" he asked Judge Zito. "Isn't this where you really live?" Witmer asked, pointing at himself. "Your metaphysical properties are not on trial here," the judge responded, and trial began.
Witmer (surprisingly) was representing himself — that lasted until Thursday, when he gave up on the I'm-my-own-country defense and decided to plead guilty. "it was a real learning experience for me," Witmer said. "I wanted to try it out." And now you have.
Link: Express-Times (Mar. 12, 2009)