Debunking the SovCit myths – Christy v Elliot –

The Sovereign Citizen movement cites, in support of their beliefs that they need no driver license or registration for their motor vehicle, a case which was decided in 1905 when automobiles had barely entered into US lives.

Speeding, running stop signs, traveling without license plates, or registration are not threats to the public safety, and thus are not arrestable offenses.

Source: Christy v. Elliot,216 Ill. 31, 74 NE 1035, 216 Il. 31 – 1905

This is a case in the State of Illinois. While I have yet to find the case online, several cites cause me to doubt the interpretation given to this case. And the more I have read the more I believe that they have grossly misunderstood the case. One also does not really see the case cited in any recent court cases, which leads me to suspect that rulings have not gone the way of the Sovereign Citizen.

56 RIGHTS ON HIGHWAYS Extract from Christy v Elliot 216 Ill 31 1 LR A NS 215 An owner of an automobile has a right to use the highways provided he uses reasonable care and caution for the safety of others and does not violate the law of the state Extract from opinion of Court

Due process not denied by ordinance punishing driving of automobile beyond speed limit or requiring registration number etc People v Schneider 103 NE 172 69 LRA 345 Mich Christy v Elliot fifteen miles per hour 216 Ill 31 74 NE 1035 An

The nature and extent of the the control exercised by the legislature or by the municipalities by virtue of power delegated by the legislature to them may be seen by an examination of the statutes and ordinances enacted. Such statutes and ordinances are classified in a note in 1 LRA NS 215 as follows 1 Registration numbering license tax 2 Regulations as to speed and safety appliances 3 Prohibited hours and places 4 Regulation of automobiles used for hire 5 Restrictions as to transportation of gasolene carried by automobiles. For cases involving the above mentioned 1 LRA NS 215 It is insisted that such statutes are unconstitutional in that they discriminate against automobiles in that they limit and restrict the use of them in the public highway that drivers of automobiles are entitled to the same rights and privileges in the use of the street as drivers of other vehicles. The courts however hold this to be a valid exercise by the legislature of its police power and that the act is uniform inasmuch as it affects all members of the same class alike Christy v Elliot supra.

To this point the court cites and approves a decision of the New York Court of Appeals.3 In general, all vehicles have a right to use the highway regardless of novelty, or possible inconvenience to existing means of transportation,4 but this right is qualified by the similar rights of others,6 and is subject to reasonable regulations imposed by proper authority.

Source: Highways: Extent of Power to Regulate Use by Automobiles J. S. M., Jr. California Law Review , Vol. 3, No. 1 (Nov., 1914) , pp. 75-77
Legal citations
Citing cases of Christy v Elliott
And in the case of Christy v. Elliott, 216 Ill. 31, the court there said at page 39: “We have said: `The State inherently possesses, and the General Assembly may lawfully exercise, such power of restraint upon private rights as may be found to be necessary and appropriate to promote the health, comfort, safety and welfare of society. This power is known as the police power of the state. In the exercise of this power the General Assembly may, by valid enactments, — i.e., “due process of law,” — prohibit all things hurtful to the comfort, safety and welfare of society, even though the prohibition invade the right of liberty or property of an individual.’ (Bailey v. People, 190 Ill. 28; Booth v. People, 186 id. 43; Ruhstrat v. People, 185 id. 133.).”
Source: Perrine v. Charles T. Bisch & Son, 105 NE 2d 543 – Ill: Appellate Court 1952
Even Illinois precedents are clear:
The law is well settled that the regulation of the speed of motor vehicles to safeguard pedestrians and others using the streets and highways is a salutary exercise of the police power.
Regulations limiting the speed of automobiles are not invalid because of unreasonable discrimination.
– in Constitutional Law. Carriers. Regulation of Jitneys. City of Memphis v … and one similar citation

The state has undoubted power to protect the health and welfare of its people and to impose restrictions having reasonable relation to that end. The nature and extent of these restrictions are matters for legislative judgment and unless the regulation is palpably unreasonable and arbitrary the court is not at liberty to say that it passes beyond the limits of the state’s protective power McClean v Arkansas 211 US 539 Price v Illinois 238 US 446. The specific regulation of one kind of business which may be necessary for the protection of the public can never be the just ground of complaint because like restrictions are not imposed upon other businesses of a different kind Soon Hing v Crowley 113 US 703 Booth v Indiana 237 US 391. The use of automobiles in the city streets may be regulated by statute and under certain circumstances by ordinance II Dillon Municipal Corporations 5th ed p 1086 A regulation requiring operators of automobiles to pay a registration fee is constitutional Commonwealth v Boyd 188 Mass 79. Regulations limiting the speed of automobiles are not invalid because of unreasonable discrimination Christy v Elliott 216 111 31 Schaar v Comforth 151 NW Minn 275. The statute under consideration in the principal case was passed upon and upheld in Nolen v Rcichman 225 Fed 812 The District Court said Here is a new class of common carriers clearly pointed out and defined in the law differing in material respects from other common carriers Ordinances and statutes regulating the operation of jitneys have been held valid by other courts Ex parte Cardinal 150 Pac Cal 348 Ex parte Dickey 85 SE W Va 781 Green v City of San Antonio 178 SW Tex 6 Pub Serv Commission v Booth 156 NYS 140 The principal case is clearly supported by authority and seems correct in principle in view of the peculiar character and functions of the jitney pointed out by Mr Justice Williams at p 633

And a lovely case, this one decided in the US Supreme Court: Hendrick v. Maryland, 235 US 610 – Supreme Court 1915

The movement of motor vehicles over the highways is attended by constant and serious dangers to the public, and is also abnormally destructive to the ways themselves. Their success depends on good roads the construction and maintenance of which are exceedingly expensive; and in recent years insistent demands have been made upon the States for better facilities, especially by the ever-increasing number of those who own such vehicles. As is well known, in order to meet this demand and accommodate the growing traffic the State of Maryland has built and is maintaining a system of improved roadways. Primarily for the enforcement of good order and the protection of those within its own jurisdiction the State put into effect the above-described general regulations, including requirements for registration and licenses. A further evident purpose was to secure some compensation for the use of facilities provided at great cost from the class for whose needs they are essential and whose operations over them are peculiarly injurious.

In the absence of national legislation covering the subject a State may rightfully prescribe uniform regulations necessary for public safety and order in respect to the operation upon its highways of all motor vehicles — those moving in interstate commerce as well as others. And to this end it may require the registration of such vehicles and the licensing of their drivers, charging therefor reasonable fees graduated according to the horse-power of the engines — a practical measure of size, speed, and difficulty of control. This is but an exercise of the police power uniformly recognized as belonging to the States and essential to the preservation of the health, safety and comfort of their citizens; and it does not constitute a direct and material burden on interstate commerce. The reasonableness of the State’s action is always subject to 623*623 inquiry in so far as it affects interstate commerce, and in that regard it is likewise subordinate to the will of Congress. Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U.S. 27, 30, 31; Smith v. Alabama, 124 U.S. 465, 480; Lawton v. Steele, 152 U.S. 133, 136; N.Y., N.H. & H.R.R. v. New York, 165 U.S. 628, 631; Holden v. Hardy, 169 U.S. 366, 392; Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway v. Ohio, 173 U.S. 285, 298; Chicago, B. & Q.R.R. v. McGuire, 219 U.S. 549, 568; Atlantic Coast Line v. Georgia, 234 U.S. 280, 291.

It seems that the cite to Chisty v Elliot is misleading in light of the rulings by the courts since then, and furthermore, it appears that the case itself does not support the conclusions of the Sovereign Citizen.


4 thoughts on “Debunking the SovCit myths – Christy v Elliot –

  1. I have never seen a more succinct way of encapsulating the central fallacy of SovCit and radical Libertarian thinking than this:

    “You right to swing your fist stops at my nose.”

  2. Speeding, running stop signs, traveling without license plates, or registration are not threats to the public safety, and thus are not arrestable offenses.

    Notice the “arrestable” in there. It doesn’t mean you can’t be stopped and ticketed, just that you can’t be arrested.

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