Apparently not knowing that their entire state tried this about 150 years ago, and that it turned out badly, Florida couple Joel and Donna Brinkle have declared themselves independent and claim they are not subject to the authority of the United States government, or any other government, for that matter.
It was unclear whether Joel considers himself subject to the authority of Donna, and/or vice-versa.
Surprisingly, for the most part their claim of independence involves not wanting to pay taxes, which the Brinkles have not done since the 1990s. The government remains fairly touchy about this kind of thing, however, and both the IRS and state officials have pursued them for the unpaid amounts. Now the Brinkles are in more trouble because, acting under their self-declared sovereign authority, they have been filing liens against people they say have wronged them. The liens don’t have any direct effect, but they can cause problems for the subject, who, for example, may not be able to sell a home until the lien is removed. Over the past six years, the Brinkles have filed dozens of liens against everyone from a tow company to Bill Clinton to (in an especially ill-advised tactic) the chief judge of the local judicial circuit.
Independence also frees the Brinkles from the need to get a drivers’ license, but the government keeps arresting Joel Brinkle for not having one. Chief Judge Simmons found there was probable cause for one of those arrests, and a month later he had a lien on his house. Florida’s attorney general has now gotten involved, suing the Brinkles for fraud and harassment and seeking to ban them from filing any more liens without first getting court permission to do so. (If the case ends up before Judge Simmons, I would advise trying to change the venue.)
Being independent has other benefits, too, like as the ability to print your own money. Although they live on Social Security (which they get from the federal government they don’t recognize), in February the Brinkles made an offer on a $700,000 house. The developer was probably expecting to get United States money, but instead was presented with a money order hand-printed in the Land of Brinkle. He didn’t accept it, but Donna Brinkle (a former court clerk) recorded the sale anyway. As head of her own sovereign country, she said, she has the right to create her own monetary system. A judge disagreed, and soon had a lien on his stuff, too.
Despite the rather dramatic lack of success of this scheme, a lesson they could have learned from Wesley Snipes, among others, the Brinkles are not giving up. “All we lack,” Donna said, “is someone with a bigger stick than they have in Seminole County.” Again, folks, that would be the federal government you don’t recognize, unless you are hoping to get the British to intervene on your behalf.