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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, June 04, 2007

Berks County State Rep Sam Rohrer Strikes a Blow for Posse Comitatus

You never know what you might find on a courthouse bulletin board. Usually, there's just a few menus from restaurants that open one week and close the next. But last week, I saw an epistle plastered on every floor of the courthouse. Paul's letter to the Corinthians? No, it contains very strange, and bad, legal advice. It advises us we need no driver's license. Damn! I just sent in my renewal fee.

Driver's licenses? We don't need no stinkin' driver's licenses. Not the best advice to someone whose license has just been suspended.

What I saw is actually the copy of a letter, sent to Judge Streitel in Chester County. She had found William Taylor Reil, a supposed constitutional law scholar, guilty of driving under suspension and with bogus vehicle documents. Judge Streitel is told she goofed. You see, Pennsylvania's Vehicle Code only applies to commercial vehicles. Here's an excerpt.

The crux of the issue is whether [The Vehicle Code] can properly be applied to an individual. Within an individual's right to liberty is the inherent right to travel. If one's movement can be restrained, such restraint is intrinsically a restraint on his liberty. Mr. Reil's use of an automobile is simply an extension of his personal liberty to move about as he wishes.

My research, and that of my staff, confirms that [The Vehicle Code] can only be properly applied to commercial vehicles and commercial use of the roads. An individual who wishes to utilize an automobile or other means of conveyance in order to exercise his right to travel cannot lawfully be required to obtain a license to drive or to register his automobile in order to operate it freely on our roads.

The source of this goofy, and very dangerous, advice? The Posse Comitatus, which believes no legitimate form of government exists above the county level? The sovereign citizen movement, which argues citizens are only subject to common or constitutional law? Both groups use precisely that argument. And they're both nuts.

These extremist groups want to restore a minimalist government that never existed, and their chief tool is "paper terrorism" - they assault judges and other government officials with bogus liens and financing statements. They do things like plastering the letter I saw all over courthouses. Most of them only recognize the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which they consider God-given. I think they must have them mixed up with the ten commandments. But since they only recognize the top ten, women and minorities lose out on voting or holding office. Not surprisingly, many are white supremacists and anti-Semitic.

But neither Posse Comitatus nor the sovereign citizen movement is responsible for that bad legal advice. It instead comes from a one-man fringe group, Berks County-based state representative Sam Rohrer, a Bob Jones University grad. Sadly, he's been a state rep since 1993 and is actually a member of the appropriations committee. The letter is on his official letterhead and even contains the improbable claim that an unnamed member of his staff, a Pa. licensed attorney, reached the same conclusion.

Sam Roherer has just struck a blow for the sovereign citizen movement in Pa. His letter, addressed to a Chester County judge, has magically appeared as gospel (King James version only) on multiple bulletin boards at the Northampton County courthouse. Maybe some "Patriot" will thank him with some forged documents so he can drive without registering his car, too!

Way to go, Sam!

Is it me, or don't you think it's a bit odd for a state rep to be making the same arguments we might hear from wingnuts like the Christian Patriots, whose leaders are neo-Nazis?


LVDem said...

Rohrer is a joke. This is just another example.

Anonymous said...

Sam Rohrer is prosecution exhibit A that the Klan is alive and well in Berks county

Bernie O'Hare said...


I would not go that far. But Rohrer is making the same arguments advanced by many right-wing anarchists.

Anonymous said...

You guys love to label, but you know not of which you speak. Do you know any Christian patriots? I consider myself to be a christian and a patriot, but my leaders are not neo nazi's, and we are not anarchists.
While I question why Roher would put out a statement like that, I do understand the frustration with basic rights being stepped on by government. I see that as libertarianism, not anarchism.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:25,

You're right. It's wrong to label people. As a matter of fact, I do know a member of the Christian Patriot movement, and he's a bigot. I've spoken to him at the courthouse when he pops in to try to file one of his many liens.

Now I don't think all Christian Patriots are racist or anti-Semitic, but their philosophy is right-wing anarchism. Rohrer appears to have adopted some of their arguments. That scares the hell out of me because I have to wonder what other arguments he's adopted.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:47,

I understand and appreciate your points. I don't mean to imply that conservatives, by nature of their conservativism, are crazy or full of anarchy. Like you say, we have fringe groups on both sides of the political spectrum. I have liberal friends who call Condi Rice Aunt Jemima. Isn't that bigoted?

I don't know Rohrer, but his letter troubles me because he is using the same terminology and arguments advanced by right wing anarchists in the sovereign citizen movement. I'm going to write and ask him for an explanation.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your fairness, writing to Rohrer is a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Live Free or Die.

Just stay off my lawn.

Chris Casey said...

Paris Hilton is in jail for driving while her license was revoked. Under these standards, how dare we take away her right to drive around Hollywood!
Paris Hilton and the Posse Comitatus, now there's a match made in heaven!

RadCenter said...

If one were to extend this preposterous argument, there would be no roads on which to drive except for private toll roads, since there would be no public property. A lot of good it does to have "freedom" when you can't exercise it.

BTW -- Almost every time I read about anarchists, they're liberals (WTO protestors, income tax objectors, etc.). I guess there are crazies on both sides.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Rad, there are crazies everywhere. Look at me!

Anonymous said...

Many income tax objectors are fairly conservative.

Just sayin'.

PA progressive said...

Bernie you need to get me a copy of that letter. PLEASE.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll drop you a line back channel.

Anonymous said...

Maybe people should do some RESEARCH for themselves before making snide comments.

I suspect if people were to look up the LEGAL definitions of the terms used in the VEHICLE CODES in Black's Law Dictionary (4th Edition); read the UNAMENDED & UNRESTATED laws; the relevant SUPREME COURT decisions on licensing & motor vehicles; the UNIFORM VEHICLE CODES promulgated by the Department of Commerce, as well as C.J.S. and other legal references, they might agree.

Especially when they consider the COMMERCE and SUPREMACY Clauses of the Federal Constitution and the following definition from the UNITED STATES CODE:

Title 18 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure, Part I – Crimes, Chapter 2 – Aircraft and Motor Vehicles

18 USC 31 Definitions:

(a) Definitions — In this chapter, the following definitions apply:

(6) Motor vehicle — The term “motor vehicle” means every description of carriage or other contrivance propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used for commercial purposes on the highways in the transportation of passengers, passengers and property, or property or cargo.
(10) Used for commercial purposes — The term “used for commercial purposes” means the carriage of persons or property for any fare, fee, rate, charge or other consideration, or directly or indirectly in connection with any business, or other undertaking intended for profit.


Patrick in California

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”--Dr. Wayne Dryer

Bernie O'Hare said...

Patrick in California,

You have no idea what you're talking about. And pretending that you do just gives false hope and encouragement to those whose licenses are under suspension.

I happen to know the law. I can assure you I've done polenty of what you call RESEARCH, including 3 years of law school. There is no decision anywhere, in any state, that supports your horribly flawed argument. People who drive without a license will get arrested and eventually will end up in jail if they keep it up.

Anonymous said...

You expect that the government would OPENLY admit that most people and there cars are TAXED & REGULATED under the FICTION that they are using the roads for COMMERCIAL PURPOSES?

Here are a few cases from FINDLAW & WESTLAW that might be of interest.

NOTICE how most make a FUNDAMENTAL DISTINCTION between the People's RIGHT to use the roads for purposes of VEHICULAR TRAVEL and the PRIVILEGE of using them for COMMERCIAL PURPOSES.

“The statute is framed upon the premise that the operation of a motor vehicle upon the public highways is the exercise **122 of a mere privilege, which may be denied, rather than a right. See, People v. Rosenheimer, 209 N.Y. 115, 120, 121, 102 N.E. 530, 532, 46 L.R.A.,N.S., 977; Heart v. Fletcher, 184 Misc. 659, 53 N.Y.S.2d 369.

‘The essence of the right to equal protection of the laws is that all persons similarly situated be treated alike.’ Myer v. Myer, 271 App.Div. 465, 472, 66 N.Y.S.2d 83, 90, affirmed 296 N.Y. 979, 73 N.E.2d 562, citing Frost v. Corporation Commission, 278 U.S. 515, 522, 49 S.Ct. 235, 73 L.Ed. 483; Atchison, T. & S. F. R. Co. v. Matthews, 174 U.S. 96, 19 S.Ct. 609, 43 L.Ed. 909. The statute in question does affect alike all persons similarly situated, i. e., persons licensed to operate motor vehicles upon the highways of this state. The fact that it does not apply with equal force *51 to unlicensed operators is immaterial from the constitutional standpoint. The constitution does not require that a vehicle and traffic law shall apply equally in all respects to licensed and unlicensed operators of vehicles. The licensed operator possesses a qualified right granted by the state. He stands in a class different from an unlicensed operator of a vehicle and is subject to legislation specially applying to those persons in his class.

Millions of the taxpayers’ dollars have been used for the construction and improvement of our highways, and more millions are spent annually for new highways and for the improvement and upkeep of the existing highways. These highways are maintained as a governmental function, 40 C.J.S., Highways, § 177, p. 25, and it seems trite for one to say that all persons are entitled to use the same subject only to reasonable regulation. To many persons, the right to own a motor vehicle and the right to possess a license to drive the same are among the most cherished rights of a citizen in this free country. The very livelihood of many, such as chauffeurs, truckers, farmers, etc., and the very welfare of their families depend upon their right to use the highways. In fact, it is clear that one’s inalienable right to ‘liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ is curtailed if he may be unreasonably kept off the highways maintained at his expense. In fact, one court has just recently gone so far as to say that ‘the freedom to make use of one’s own property, here a motor vehicle, as a means of getting about from place to place, whether in pursuit of business or pleasure, is a ‘liberty’ which under the Fourteenth Amendment cannot be denied or curtailed by a state without due process of law.’ *54 Wall v. King, 1 Cir., 206 F.2d 878, 882.” SCHUTT v. MAC DUFF (1954), 127 N.Y.S. 2d 116

“In the case of Greene v. City of San Antonio (Tex. Civ. App.) 178 S. W. 6, Mr. Chief Justice Fly, in passing upon a "jitney" ordinance says:

"No man has the right to use a street for the prosecution of his private business, and his use for that purpose may be prohibited or regulated as the state or municipality may deem best for the public good. * * * In the case of Fifth Avenue Coach Co. v. City of New York, 194 N. Y. 19, 86 N. E. 824, 21 L. R. A. (N. S.) 744, 16 Ann. Cas. 695, it was held * * * that the city had the authority to grant or withhold the right to run coaches on the streets."

Again quoting from the same opinion:

"So in this case appellant has never had any vested right to use the streets of San Antonio to engage in the business of a common carrier of passengers for hire, and no right of his is infringed or invaded by the ordinance requiring certain things to be done in order to enter into business on the streets, which have, at the expenditure of large sums, been placed by the city in prime condition for automobile travel. The streets belong to the public, the city being its trustee, and no private individual or corporation has a right to use such streets for the prosecution of a business without the consent of the trustee and a compliance with the conditions upon which the permission to so use them is given."

This case is cited with approval in Le Blanc v. City of New Orleans, 70 South. 212. The same doctrine is announced in the case of Dickey v. Davis (W. Va.) 85 S. E. 781, L. R. A. 1915F, 840, from which we quote as follows:

"The right of a citizen to travel upon the highway and transport his property thereon, in the ordinary course of life and business, differs radically and obviously *281 from that of one who makes the highway his place of business and uses it for private gain, in the running of a stage coach or omnibus. The former is the usual and ordinary right of a citizen, a common right, a right common to all, while the latter is special, unusual, and extraordinary. As to the former the extent of legislative power is that of regulation; but as to the latter its power is broader. The right may be wholly denied, or it may be permitted to some and denied to others, because of its extraordinary nature. This distinction, elementary and fundamental in character, is recognized by all the authorities"--citing Jersey City Gas Co. v. Dwight, 29 N. J. Eq. 242; McQuillin, Munic. Corp. 1620.

Our attention has not been called to any authorities to the contrary." CUMMINS ET AL. v.JONES, MAYOR, ET AL. 79 Or. 276, 155 P. 171 (1916)

“[5][6] 2. Nor does it violate section 3 or section 14 of article 3 of the state Constitution, nor the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, securing to the people the right of acquiring, possessing, and enjoying property, and prohibiting the taking of private property for public use or without due process of law, for, while a citizen has the right to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, that right does not extend to the use of the highways, either in whole or in part, as a place of business for private gain. For the latter purpose no person has a vested right in the use of the highways of the state, but is a privilege or license which the Legislature may grant or withhold in its discretion, or which it may grant upon such conditions as it may see fit to impose, provided the imposition applies impartially. Hadfield v. Lundin, 169 P. 516, 98 Wash. 657, L. R. A. 1918B, 909, Ann. Cas. 1918C, 942; Gizzardelli v. Presbrey, 117 A. 359, 44 R. I. 333; Cummins v. Jones, 155 P. 171, 79 Or. 276; Memphis St. Ry. Co. v. Rapid Transit Co., 139 S. W. 635, 133 Tenn. 99, L. R. A. 1916B, 1143, Ann. Cas. 1917C, 1045; Packard v. Banton, 44 S. Ct. 257, 264 U. S. 140, 68 L. Ed. 598.” STATE v.JOHNSON, 243 P. 1073 (1926)

"First. It is well established law that the highways of the state are public property; that their primary and preferred use is for private purposes; and that their use for purposes of gain is special and extraordinary, which, generally at least, the legislature may prohibit or condition as it sees fit. Packard v. Banton, 264 U.S. 140, 144 , 44 S.Ct. 257, and cases cited; Frost & Frost Trucking Co. v. R.R. Comm., 271 U.S. 583, 592 , 593 S., 46 S.Ct. 605, 47 A.L.R. 457; Hodge Drive-It-Yourself Co. v. Cincinnati, 284 U.S. 335, 337 , 52 S.Ct. 144; Johnson Transfer & Freight Lines v. Perry (D.C.) 47 F.(2d) 900, 902; Southern Motorways v. Perry (D.C.) 39 F.(2d) 145, 147; People's Transit Co. v. Henshaw (C.C.A.) 20 F.(2d) 87, 89; Weksler v. Collins, 317 Ill. 132, 138, 139, 147 N.E. 797; Maine Motor Coaches v. Public Utilities, 125 Me. 63, 65, 130 A. 866. [287 U.S. 251, 265]” STEPHENSON v. BINFORD, 287 U.S. 251 (1932)

“Each citizen has the absolute right to choose for himself the mode of conveyance he desires, whether it be by wagon or carriage, by horse, motor or electric car, or by bicycle, or astride of a horse, subject to the sole condition that he will observe all those requirements that are known as the "law of the road." This right of the people to the use of the public streets of a city is so well established and so universally recognized in this country that it has become a part of the alphabet of fundamental rights of the citizen. While the tyranny of the American system of government very largely consists in the action of the municipal authorities, this right has not yet been questioned or attempted to be abridged.” SWIFT v. CITY OF TOPEKA.(1890.), 43 Kan. 671

"The right to travel interstate by auto vehicle upon the public highways may be a privilege or immunity of citizens of the United States. Compare Crandall v. Nevada, 6 Wall. 35. A citizen may have, under the Fourteenth Amendment, the right to travel and transport his property upon them by auto vehicle. But he has no right to make the highways his place of business by using them as a common carrier for hire. Such use is a privilege which may be granted or withheld by the state in its discretion, without violating either the due process clause or the equal protection clause. Packard v. Banton, 264 U.S. 140, 144 , 44 S. Ct. 257." BUCK v. KUYKENDALL, 267 U.S. 307 (1925)

“Even the Legislature has no power to deny to a citizen the right to travel upon the highway and transport his property in the ordinary course of his business or pleasure, though this right may be regulated in accordance with the public interest *207 and convenience. Where one undertakes, however, to make a greater use of the public highways for his own private gain, as by the operation of a stagecoach, an omnibus, a truck, or a motorbus, the state may not only regulate the use of the vehicles on the highway, but may prohibit it. A municipality can do so only under a power expressly granted by the state. Ex parte Dickey, 76 W. Va. 576, 85 S. E. 781, L. R. A. 1915F, 840." CHICAGO MOTOR COACH CO. et al. v. CITY OF CHICAGO et al., 337 Ill. 200, 169 N.E. 22 (1929)

" [6][7][8] The right of a citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon in the ordinary course of life and business is a common right which he has under his right to enjoy life and liberty, to acquire and possess property, and to pursue happiness and safety. It includes the right in so doing to use the ordinary and usual conveyances of the day; and under the existing modes of travel includes the right to drive a horse-drawn carriage or wagon thereon, or to operate an automobile thereon, for the usual and ordinary purposes of life and business. It is not a mere privilege, like the privilege of moving a house in the street, operating a business stand in the street, or transporting persons or property for hire along the street, which a city may permit or prohibit at will.” W. L. THOMPSON v. D. C. SMITH, Chief of Police, 155 Va. 367, 154 S.E. 579 (1930)

“The right of a citizen to use the highways, including the streets of the city or town, for travel and to transport his goods, is an inherent right which cannot be taken from him, but it is subject to reasonable regulation in the interest of the public good. In degree this right of the citizen is superior to that of the common carrier by motorbus, dray, coach, taxi, or other device, the latter being controlled by legislative grant, or franchise which may be regulated or denied, and may be given to some and denied to others. *1112State ex rel. Pennington v. Quigg, 94 Fla. 1056, 114 So. 859, and cases cited.” FLORIDA MOTOR LINES, Inc. v. WARD, 102 Fla. 1105 (1931)

"Fundamentally it must be recognized that in this country "Highways are for the use of the traveling public, and all have ... the right to use them in a reasonable and proper manner, and subject to proper regulations as to the manner of use." (13 Cal.Jur. 371, sec. 59) "The streets of a city belong to the people of the state, and the use thereof is an inalienable right of every citizen, subject to legislative control or such reasonable regulations as to the traffic thereon or the manner of using them as the legislature may deem wise or proper to adopt and impose." (19 Cal.Jur. 54, sec. 407) "Streets and highways are established and maintained primarily for purposes of travel and transportation by the public, and uses incidental thereto. Such travel may be for either business or pleasure ... The use of highways for purposes of travel and transportation is not a mere privilege, but a common and fundamental right, of which the public and individuals cannot rightfully be deprived ...[A]ll persons have an equal right to use them for purposes of travel by proper means, and with due regard for the corresponding rights of others." (25 Am.Jur. 456-457, sec. 163; see, also, 40 C.J.S. 244-247, sec. 233.)" Escobedo v. State of California (1950), 35 Cal.2d 870, 875-876.

Maybe people should consider the POSSIBILITY that many laws when applied to certain, specific CLASSES of PERSONS are CONSTITUTIONAL (such as those who operate under the SOVEREIGNTY of the STATE like government employees/officers, licensees & franchisees), yet when those same laws are applied to the PEOPLE at large they are also VAGUE, OVERBROAD and

"It is well settled that, quite apart from the guarantee of equal protection, if a law "impinges upon a fundamental right explicitly or implicitly secured by the Constitution [it] is presumptively unconstitutional." Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 76 (plurality opinion)." HARRIS v. McRAE, 448 U.S. 297 (1980)

Such as the RIGHT to LIBERTY, of which the RIGHT to use the roads for purposes of VEHICULAR TRAVEL is a component.

"Personal liberty largely consists of the Right of locomotion -- to go where and when one pleases -- only so far restrained as the Rights of others may make it necessary for the welfare of all other citizens. The Right of the Citizen to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, by horsedrawn carriage, wagon, or automobile, is not a mere privilege which may be permitted or prohibited at will, but the common Right which he has under his Right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Under this Constitutional guarantee one may, therefore, under normal conditions, travel at his inclination along the public highways or in public places, and while conducting himself in an orderly and decent manner, neither interfering with nor disturbing another's Rights, he will be protected, not only in his person, but in his safe conduct." American Jurisprudence 1st. Constitutional Law, Sect.329, p 1135.

A FACT that the original CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE acknowledged.

81. “Street” or “Highway.” “Street” or “highway” is a way or place of whatever nature open to the use of the public as a matter of right for purposes of vehicular travel. STATUTES OF CALIFORNIA 1935, Vehicle Code, Chapter 27, page 98.

Unlike the LEGISLATIVELY granted PRIVILEGE of using the roads for COMMERCIAL purpose.

Patrick in California

"Machiavelli would be PROUD, Houdini would be AMAZED and Mark Twain would say "I told you so."--PKM

Anonymous said...

Now I don't think all Christian Patriots are racist or anti-Semitic, but their philosophy is right-wing anarchism. Rohrer appears to have adopted some of their arguments. That scares the hell out of me because I have to wonder what other arguments he's adopted.
You have said he scares the Hell out of you. I say to you why does Hell relate to you that way if it does not exist?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Well, I never said Hell does not exist. I'm an agnostic, not an atheist. But it's an expression of speech, even among nonbelievers.

Anonymous said...

If you think the patriots are nuts then take a look at Black's 6th Law Dictionary and look up the definition and purpose of a marriage license.

Go on....look it up! Then post a reply to this one.

As a side comment: the "sovereign citizen" concept from a Biblical point of view is sinful. The individual never has sovereignty and the government does not obtain it's authority from the governed. Read Romans 13.

Anonymous said...

Just happened upon Lehigh Valley Ramblings and this issue of failure to obtain a driver's license or driving without a license.

I have always wondered if "That to secure these Rights, [life, liberty and property] Governments are instituted among Men [and if such governments really do] derive their just Powers from the consent of the governed, then the government would need a man's consent to govern this man in respect to the registration of his automobile or his using the automobile to move about the public highways in pursuit of happiness.

Would you agree Bernie?

If you do then could you tell me how the government obtains the consent of the people to govern their use of an automobile upon the common ways?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving me a reason to vote for Same! Live FREE or DIE!

Anonymous said...

you know, when there is a revolution, these kind of forums will let us "wingnuts" know who are the best people to use as target practice and human shields. Stupid people like the author of this article deserve to be put out of their misery!

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!" ~SAMUEL ADAMS


Anonymous said...

Bernie, fuck off eat shit and Die !!! relax, its just a figure of speech, Live free or Die just a figure of speech, protected might i add. The right to travel , is what it is. It's a right. It is a basic right.
Government is supposedly here to protect that right not uses it and abuse it, by issuing a driver license,with the power to strip u of that license, That is control,Control is the opposite of freedom the opposite of freedom is SLAVERY !!!! Get it Bernie Right on Sam!!

Anonymous said...

Heys Folks, Good thread here but many of you are missing the point that licenses are a contract with the state; and the contract defines you as a corporation regulated by the state. Look at any vehicle code; person is a corporation subject to regulation; created by the state; not the creator. This allows the state to treat you like an object and tax you for exercising god given liberties. Billions of dollars worth of unjust taxes.