. . .In a fantastical world. . .
“I’m traveling, not driving under commerce!” the haggard man behind the wheel exclaimed antagonistically at the police officer standing at his car window, “You need to show me the law that proves that I’m driving under commerce and not traveling in my own conveyance as a private citizen!”
There are countless reports and videos of the above scenario that exist throughout multiple Social Media platforms, where a group of people express that they are entitled to some “right” to use Public Property without following the regulations placed upon that property. In a lawless world, this inimical behavior toward public officials vested with authority to enact the police power of the Executive Branch would be somewhat warranted; although, in modern Western Democracies and Western Republics, those societies are governed by law and that kind of deleterious behavior is overall against the public order, the public good, and most importantly: the law.
In the United States of America since roughly the 1950s-1960s, there has been a growing movement of groups of “alternative rightists” (those who fall on “the right” in many Political Spectrums), who have been attempting to conflate liberal principles written and spoken about in the 1770s by “The Founding Fathers” with modern-day libertarian principles of limited government that are borderline fantasy, and blending the two political ideologies into a ludicrous ideology of “The Sovereign Individual”; it’s hard to track down the origins of this absurd line of thinking, and this article isn’t about the genesis of this so called “Sovereign-Citizen” movement—this article is the first in a series of articles detailing the peculiar arguments these “alt-right” groups use in a sick attempt to bypass the standards created by the Public Authority of society, laid down to govern the whole flock.
The topic of this article will pertain to the basic idea of “The Right to Travel” as used by this movement; this movement which we have dubbed, “The Pretend Sovereign Movement” (herein Pretend Sovereigns). We will use one case in particular that has been shared into almost infinity by the Pretend Sovereigns, to elucidate a possible genesis of where they get the idea of “The Right to Travel without a License” from, and we will also use the same case to illuminate how their argument is without merit with an explanation as to why that is so. This article should be short and to the point.
This will be very brief; the argument is as follows:
A Drivers License is for someone operating in commerce—someone traveling is not operating in commerce and does not need a drivers license.
The Case Law
Regarding the general use of case law by the Pretend Sovereigns, their most aberrant behavior is their obsession with obiter dictum/dictum and utilizing only that to allegedly prove their point, while completely omitting the ratio decidendi of the case. When it comes to case law usage in courts, or even arguments of the law, the best cases to use pertain to the same subject-matter as what is before the court for adjudication: that is, if someone is in court arguing a “right to travel” the best case law to present and argue are those case laws regarding a right to travel which have already been argued in a court before, and not simply use a case law where a judge says there’s a “right to travel” even though the case has nothing to do with the “right to travel.”
That stated, one of the most overused cases by the Pretend Sovereigns is the case of Thompson v. Smith 155 Va. 367 (Va. 1930) that comes out of the Virginia Supreme Court from the year 1930. This was a case that stems from a time when automobiles were about 30 years in use by the general populace, so the rules and regulations over them were handled slightly different than they are in the modern day. This is a case wherein the Plaintiff petitioned the Court for an injunction (against the Chief of Police’s revocation of the Plaintiff’s permit to operate his private automobile on the city streets, so the Plaintiff could operate his private automobile on the city streets.
When one reads into the case they will see the city ordinance which allowed the Chief of Police to revoke a permit to driver/operator/; here is that section of the city ordinance literatim:
“The chief of police is authorized and directed to revoke the permit of any driver who, in his opinion, becomes unfit to drive an automobile on the streets of the city, with the right to the holder of such permit to apply to the judge of the municipal court to have his permit reinstated.“Thompson v. Smith, 155 Va. 367, 373 (Va. 1930)
The case then gets into the alleged breach of the Virginia Constitution, delegations of legislative authority, and other interesting discussions of law and constitutional law pertaining to the State of Virginia in particular; the part we will be focusing on specifically is the quotation below that the Pretend Sovereigns latch onto as a means to prove that they are right, even if their argument is without merit as explained below:
“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.”Thompson v. Smith, 155 Va. 377 (Va. 1930)
On its face this quote seems to back up the Pretend Sovereigns and they are correct that if you’re not engaging in business you don’t need a drivers license; now let’s get to the part of the case law that the Pretend Sovereigns’ leave out in their copy-and-paste deportment whenever they attempt to use this case to prove their “right to travel without a drivers license”:
“The exercise of such a common right the city may, under its police power, regulate in the interest of the public safety and welfare; but it may not arbitrarily or unreasonably prohibit or restrict it, nor may it permit one to exercise it and refuse to permit another of like qualifications, under like conditions and circumstances, to exercise it.” Taylor v. Smith, 140 Va. 217, 124 S. E. 259; Ex parte Dickey, 76 W. Va. 576, 85 S. E. 781, L. R. A. 1915-F, 840; Hadfield v. Lundin, 98 Wash. 657, 168 Pac. 516, L. R. A. 1918-B, 909, Ann. Cas. 1918-C, 942.Thompson v. Smith, 155 Va. 377-78 (Va. 1930)
Do you see what the Supreme Court of the State of Virginia stated? “A common right (meaning all common rights) can be regulated in the interest of public safety and welfare by the state legislature, and under city’s right of Police Power the city can enforce that regulation“, as long as the regulation is equal to all members of society and regulated under the same conditions and circumstances, and the regulation is not arbitrary and follows the law(s) of the city and the state. That means that if the state has a law requiring the use of a drivers license to propel yourself in a metal box using small explosions while you’re on the public roadways/public property, your “common right to travel” is regulated in the interest of public safety and welfare and therefore you need a drivers license to use a metal box propelled by small explosions on the public roadways/public property; and if you’re going to be using the public roadways/public property to engage in a profession of transporting people or goods/property you will need a commercial drivers license/CDL, which is an entirely different drivers license and an entirely different process to acquire one (for more on this subject, see Footnote 1 and 2).
All of the case citations after the quote are the different cases wherein the Court(s) of Virginia (as well as the State of Washington) have upheld the Police Power of the city (and the state) with regard to their regulation of common right(s) as long as they are so done in the interest of public safety and welfare. This means that the argument that the Pretend Sovereigns have a “right to travel without a drivers license” is completely without merit due to the fact that under the constitutional police powers, the cities (and the state via the legislature) can curtail a common right under the guise of public safety and welfare; as we can see when we further read the case which is another strike against the Pretend Sovereigns:
“It has been said that when the State or a city has the power to prohibit the doing of an act altogether, it has the power to permit the doing of the act upon any condition, or subject to any regulation, however arbitrary or capricious it may be; and may lawfully delegate to executive or administrative officers an uncontrolled and arbitrary discretion as to granting and revoking permits or licenses to do such acts; Taylor v. Smith, 140 Va. 217, 124 S. E. 259, 263; State ex rel. Crumpton v. Montgomery, 177 Ala. 221, 59 So. 294; State v. Gray, 61 Conn. 39, 22 Atl. 675; City of St. Joseph v. Levin, 128 Mo. 588, 31 S. W. 101, 49 Am. St. Rep. 577; Brown v. Stubbs, 128 Md. 129, 97 Atl. 227.“Thompson v. Smith, 155 Va. 378 (Va. 1930)
To put it into more modern terms it means that the city and state has an Executive/Administrative duty to execute the “Traffic Laws” created by the legislature of the state with regard to anyone wishing to use a metal box propelled by enclosed explosions (automobiles, vehicles, cars, whatever you want to call them) to travel upon any of the public roads/public property within the state; and, at the time of this specific case that duty was as arbitrary or capricious as the Executive/Administrative officers saw fit. Clearly, however, that arbitrary and capricious behavior has been largely curtailed and specific procedures have been enacted by the legislature(s) of the state(s) with regard to executing/administering the Traffic Laws of the state(s).
Further reading within the case law seemingly backs up the Pretend Sovereign argument:
“This doctrine [of arbitrary and capricious intent] has been pronounced most often in cases involving the granting, refusing, and revoking of licenses or permits to sell intoxicating liquors, or to do other things which because of their character are, or tend to be, injurious, as for instance keeping a gambling house or a bawdy-house, or operating a junk or pawn shop; and it has also been applied to cases involving permits or licenses to transport persons or property for hire along the streets. See Taylor v. Smith, supra, and cases there cited. But this doctrine has no application to permits issued for the purpose of regulating the exercise of the common right to operate a private automobile on the streets of a city, in the usual and ordinary way, to transport the driver’s person and property.” *everything added within  by author*Thompson v. Smith, 155 Va. 367, 378-79 (Va. 1930)
Although, here is another strike against the Pretend Sovereign idea of the right to travel without a license:
“It is a fundamental principle of our system of government that the rights of men are to be determined by the law itself, and not by the let or leave of administrative officers or bureaus. This principle ought not to be surrendered for convenience or in effect nullified for the sake of expediency. It is the prerogative and function of the legislative branch of the government, whether State or municipal, to determine and declare what the law shall be, and the legislative branch of the government may not divest itself of this function or delegate it to executive or administrative officers.
This does not mean, however, that no discretion can be left to administrative officers in administering the law. Government could not be efficiently carried on if something could not be left to the judgment and discretion of administrative officers to accomplish in detail what is authorized or required by law in general terms. Without this power legislation would become either oppressive or inefficient. There would be confusion in the laws, and in an effort to detail and particularize, the law would miss sufficiency both in provision and detail. Block v. Chicago, 239 Ill. 251, 87 N. E. 1011, 130 Am. St. R. 219; Mutual Film Corp. v. Ohio Indus. Comm., 236 U. S. 239, 35 Sup. Ct. 387, 59 L. Ed. 552, Ann. Cas. 1916-C, 296. This is particularly true where the discretion to be exercised by administrative officers relates to police regulations designed to protect the public morals, health, safety and general welfare. As said by Burks, J., in Taylor v. Smith, supra: “A city may, in the exercise of its police power, invest its administrative and executive officers with a reasonable discretion in the performance of duties devolved upon them to that end, whenever it is necessary for the safety and welfare of the public.” But, it should be added, the reasonable discretion which may be vested in its administrative officers is limited to a discretion in its essence ministerial and not legislative, though it may be such as may be exercised by the legislature.”Thompson v. Smith, 155 Va. 379-80 (Va. 1930)
Again, did you see what the Supreme Court of the State of Virginia stated? Let’s condense it down a bit: “It is a fundamental principle of our system of government that the rights of men are to be determined by the law itself. […] It is the prerogative and function of the legislative branch of the government, whether State or municipal, to determine and declare what the law shall be, and the legislative branch of the government may not divest itself of this function or delegate it to executive or administrative officers. This does not mean, however, that no discretion can be left to administrative officers in administering the law. […] This is particularly true where the discretion to be exercised by administrative officers relates to police regulations designed to protect the public morals, health, safety and general welfare. As said by Burks, J., in Taylor v. Smith, supra: “A city may, in the exercise of its police power, invest its administrative and executive officers with a reasonable discretion in the performance of duties devolved upon them to that end, whenever it is necessary for the safety and welfare of the public.” But, it should be added, the reasonable discretion which may be vested in its administrative officers is limited to a discretion in its essence ministerial and not legislative. […]“
To put that into the most laymen terms, it means that the Executive/Administrative branch of government have reasonable discretion to execute/administer the laws as written by the legislature—this is why in some instances police officers let people go on their way even though they were clearly in breach of some law regulating the public, such as a police officer letting someone off with a warning who was speeding; or a police officer letting someone off with a warning who was trespassing on private property; so on and so forth, including various other instances where in the police officer’s reasonable discretion it was alright to let someone go even though they were in breach of some law regulating the public.
From this case alone it can be determined that the Pretend Sovereigns are in great error when they blather on about the “right to travel without a drivers license”, as well as when they fabricate the claim that a drivers license proves that someone is operating in commerce (see Footnotes 1 and 2 below).
There is no dispute from this author that there is a “right to travel”, so long as that travel does not include getting into a metal box propelled by small explosions and using public roadways to achieve that travel; because the “right” to use the public roadways to achieve travel in a metal box propelled by small explosions can be diminished by the state(s) legislature under public safety and welfare —meaning that the “right to travel” on public roadways/public property is a privilege subject to the will of the legislative branch of government, enforced by the executive branch of government per the executive branch’s police power.
Footnote 1: “or transporting persons or property for hire along the street” — Thompson v. Smith, 155 Va. 377 (Va. 1930); this statement is with regard to a Business/Company that engages in Chauffeuring, or Taxi services like the dying Taxi Cars and the more modern Lyft and Uber services—and it also includes a business/company using Semi-Trucks to transfer and transportation of goods/property between states, or any business/company that are using automobiles/vehicles/metal boxes propelled by mini-explosions with a weight of over 40,000 lbs. In these instances a “Commercial Drivers License” or “CDL” is required, and the process of acquiring a CDL is entirely different than it is for an average everyday Drivers License.
Footnote 2: “and it has also been applied to cases involving permits or licenses to transport persons or property for hire along the streets” — Thompson v. Smith, 155 Va. 367, 378-79 (Va. 1930); this statement is along the same lines of reason as the statement within Footnote 1 above, and the same principles apply here; when the Pretend Sovereigns go off on “driving in commerce” they are conflating two an entirely separate aspects of Drivers Licenses and calling them one. Someone is only “driving in commerce” if they are part of a business/company transferring people or goods/property, and it is a requirement under modern Traffic Laws that anyone engaging in such a profession are required to have a Commercial Drivers License/CDL; which is an entirely different Drivers License and the requirements and processes to acquire a CDL are completely different than the requirements and processes to acquire a Drivers License that your average individual uses.