‘Sovereign citizen’ found mentally incompetent after driving with phony license plate
A Pennsylvania judge ordered a self-described sovereign citizen released from a psychiatric hospital following his arrest last year on traffic offenses.
Todd Detwiler, of Roaring Spring, was jailed late last year after he refused to sign court papers for traffic citations and then offered false papers to get his motorcycle released from a towing service in July 2013, reported the Altoona Mirror.
The 61-year-old Detwiler was initially cited after police said he was riding his motorcycle without proper registration, driver’s license, or helmet, and officers said the motorcycle had an altered title and makeshift license plate.
Instead of a state-issued license plate, police said, Detwiler had drawn one on cardboard that read “dei gratia,” a Latin phrase that means “by the grace of God.”
Detwiler was unable to show a valid driver’s license, registration, or proof of insurance, the newspaper reported, and instead offered a copy of a letter he sent to the Pennsylvania and Maryland attorneys general declaring himself to be a “trust” and a “traveler” on the highways.
He was jailed in Blair County after refusing to sign court papers, and his attorney said Detwiler went on a hunger strike there and was then sent to Torrance State Hospital for a mental evaluation.
Detwiler was found not competent to stand trial, but the hospital released him back to the county after determining he would not benefit from additional treatment.
Adherents of sovereign citizen beliefs are not typically found incompetent to stand trial, according to legal experts.
“Although sovereign citizens’ beliefs appear to be delusional, they typically are not considered delusions sufficient for the diagnosis required for incompetence,” wrote attorneys Melissa Shearer and Christina Koenig in their paper, “Representing the Sovereign Citizen.” “Delusional disorder, the mental illness with which a sovereign citizen would most likely be diagnosed, requires that the belief be a non-bizarre delusion.”
An estimated 300,000 people or more share sovereign citizen beliefs, so most psychologists and researchers don’t consider them to be necessarily delusional, the attorneys found.
Blair County Judge Daniel Milliron released Detwiler after a hearing Friday, saying he had no prior criminal record and was not considered a danger to the community.
The judge made clear he had rejected Detwiler’s “sovereign citizen” defense and scheduled another competency review in nine months.
Milliron also volunteered to hear that case “to save other judges from the torturous experience this court has endured.”
[Image: Male Judge In Front Of Mallet Holding Documents via Shutterstock]