2018 Volume 46, Issue 2, p158-166
There are few studies of sovereign citizens undergoing competency-to-stand-trial evaluations and little has been written about African-American or urban sovereign citizens. In this study, we examined competency-to-stand-trial reports of 36 New York City defendants who declared themselves to be sovereign citizens during their evaluations. All were men and 33 were African American. The majority denied recent or remote histories of psychiatric hospitalizations or substance use. Sixty-nine percent were deemed competent. Compared with those deemed competent, those deemed not competent were significantly more likely to have diagnosed psychotic disorders and to have reported histories of psychiatric hospitalizations. The 36 who declared themselves sovereign citizens were compared with 200 who did not, from a study conducted in the same forensic clinic. The sovereign citizens were significantly more likely to be male, African American, and high school graduates and were significantly less likely to report a history of psychiatric hospitalization or substance use. Compared with the nonsovereign citizens, they were less likely to receive a diagnosis of psychotic or mood disorders during the competency evaluation and were more likely to be deemed competent. Included are suggestions to assist forensic examiners conducting evaluations of these difficult cases.
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