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-   -   County sheriffs are the ultimate legal authorities (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=83927)

snopes 17 January 2013 08:56 AM

County sheriffs are the ultimate legal authorities
 
Comment: I found this posted on a friends wall on facebook:

Did you know that no matter what gun control laws are passed by the
federal government, they can only be enforced in your area if your county
sheriff allows them to be? The ultimate legal authorities in the land are
the county sheriffs. This was established from the time of the Founding
Fathers and upheld by the US Supreme Court in the 1997 case of Printz v.
United States. Initially the case was Mack v. United States, but by the
time it reached the Supreme Court it was renamed.

lord_feldon 17 January 2013 09:15 AM

How can the county sheriff be ultimate everywhere if some states don't have counties or sheriffs? Counties and sheriffs only exist if, when, and how a state law says that they do. (Connecticut has neither. There are historical counties that still show up on maps, but there is no county level of government.)

htonl 17 January 2013 10:45 AM

This is, apparently, a belief that is associated with the sovereign citizen/natural law/anti-tax movement. I don't quite understand why they would believe the county sheriff is the supreme authority, rather than the state governor or legislature, but one can't exactly expect logic.

Unsurprisingly, Printz v. U.S. doesn't stand for what they claim it does. You can read the article, but the short version is that the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act required "chief law enforcement officers" (presumably including sheriffs) to carry out certain actions to check up on gun sales, and the court ruled that this was unconstitutional. Needless to say, this doesn't give the county sheriff a veto over all federal laws.

BringTheNoise 17 January 2013 12:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by htonl (Post 1704159)
This is, apparently, a belief that is associated with the sovereign citizen/natural law/anti-tax movement. I don't quite understand why they would believe the county sheriff is the supreme authority, rather than the state governor or legislature, but one can't exactly expect logic.

Are you denying the magical properties of the Caps Lock key??? :lol:

firefighter_raven 17 January 2013 03:08 PM

One of these idiot sheriffs that is sending the letter to Biden is from a neighboring county. The amount of stupid on the comment section of the article in the local news section is insane.
And maybe someone with more knowledge of the Constitution can help me but isn't the only body tasked with defining a law as unconstitutional is the Supreme Court?

GenYus234 17 January 2013 03:13 PM

Our county's sheriff certainly thinks he's the ultimate legal authority on everything.

(Arpaio in case you don't feel up to doing the geography work.)

firefighter_raven 17 January 2013 03:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by GenYus234 (Post 1704222)
Our county's sheriff certainly thinks he's the ultimate legal authority on everything.

(Arpaio in case you don't feel up to doing the geography work.)

When I was down in your area a couple of years ago for that nasty fire season, I remember wondering how he kept getting elected. Most of the people I met in Mesa and Phoenix area didn't seem the type to support him.

snopes 17 January 2013 08:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by htonl (Post 1704159)
Unsurprisingly, Printz v. U.S. doesn't stand for what they claim it does. You can read the article, but the short version is that the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act required "chief law enforcement officers" (presumably including sheriffs) to carry out certain actions to check up on gun sales, and the court ruled that this was unconstitutional.

But isn't the point that SCOTUS found the Brady provisions unconstitutional because they required state officials to enforce federal regulations dealing with internal (rather than international or interstate) matters?

GenYus234 17 January 2013 08:48 PM

The UL in the OP says (if I'm reading it right) that the county sheriff could prevent anyone, including federal agents like the FBI or BATF from enforcing federal laws.

snopes 17 January 2013 09:03 PM

I read it to mean that county sheriffs were responsible for enforcing federal laws at the local level and could not be compelled to do so.

erwins 17 January 2013 09:08 PM

State and city law enforcement can still enforce federal laws, even if a Sheriff decides not to devote resources to it.

ETA: And htonl is right about it being connected to certain far right theories. See Posse Comitatus.

GenYus234 17 January 2013 09:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by snopes (Post 1704408)
I read it to mean that county sheriffs were responsible for enforcing federal laws at the local level and could not be compelled to do so.

I did not read it the OP UL that way. In particular the part about "only be enforced in your area if your county sheriff allows them" sounds like he's the one making the call if they can be enforced by anyone. If they meant they could only be enforced if he enforced them, then the use of "allow" is odd. I guess it could mean that he wouldn't allow his deputies to enforce them. The other part was the use of "ultimate legal authorities in the land" (bolding mine). "In the land" usually seems to mean the entire country or area, not just a county. Finally there is the "theme" of these types of ULs. They often have the theme that the federal government is illigitimate, illegal, or incapable. The idea that the OP UL is saying that the sheriff can prevent federal agencies from enforcing federal laws seems a lot more in keeping with these themes than if the OP UL was saying that the BATF or FBI could still enforce the laws themselves.

htonl 17 January 2013 09:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by snopes (Post 1704408)
I read it to mean that county sheriffs were responsible for enforcing federal laws at the local level and could not be compelled to do so.

This bit:

Quote:

Did you know that no matter what gun control laws are passed by the
federal government, they can only be enforced in your area if your county
sheriff allows them to be? The ultimate legal authorities in the land are
the county sheriffs.
I read to be a claim that sheriffs have a universal veto power over the enforcement of federal legislation by any agency, not just a claim that sheriffs can refuse to enforce it themselves.

erwins 17 January 2013 09:52 PM

It's a really standard Posse Comitatus/sovereign citizen/etc. statement.

snopes 17 January 2013 10:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by GenYus234 (Post 1704427)
I did not read it the OP UL that way. In particular the part about "only be enforced in your area if your county sheriff allows them" sounds like he's the one making the call if they can be enforced by anyone.

Bur if the sheriff is the one in ultimate control of those who are tasked with enforcing such regulations, then it is true, in effect, that those regulations can only be enforced if he allows them to be.

GenYus234 17 January 2013 10:33 PM

The only way that would mean that they couldn't be enforced at all would be for the sheriff department to be the only law enforcement agency who could enforce federal laws.

Ali Infree 17 January 2013 10:59 PM

I understand that this belief exists in the land, but it does have all these issues doesn't it? If the sheriff doesn't allow water pollution laws to be enforced, then they are not enforced? Vaccinations of children? Not in my county? Payment of physician bills by the government? Nope, no socialism here! Regulation of the safety of food and medications...safety standards in work places...rights of well, anybody not part of the posse?
Pap.
BTW, county sheriffs in WV have a long history of holding highly central and long, corrupt reigns since they constitutionally collect all local taxes and enforce the laws (as we normal folks think of it). Eventually, there was a voter rebellion, and no sheriff could hold the office for more than one four year term. We lightened up a little bit and let them succeed themselves once. Since then the sheriffs association has put up amendments to eliminate these term limits repeatedly. It has been turned down, I think, twice in recent years. And the votes were not even close.
Back on topic:
Pap.

Ali

crescent 17 January 2013 11:59 PM

I think that they think that by not allowing enforcement, the sheriff's can block enforcement; they can prevent Federal or State officers from implementing laws the sheriff disagrees with. As previously stated, that is a key component of the "Freeman on the Land" conspiracy movement.

Slightly more mainstream:

Several State Legislators Say No to Federal Gun Control Laws

Quote:

Named the "Firearms Protection Act," the bill would make "any federal law banning semi-automatic firearms or limiting the size of gun magazines unenforceable within the state's boundaries" and most notably "anyone trying to enforce a federal gun ban could face felony charges under the proposal."
Quote:

proposal would make the president's Executive Order or any federal law banning semi-automatic weapons not already on the books "unenforceable" and the bill notably, like in Texas, would "make it a crime for any officer, government agent, or employee from enforcing a law or order declared unenforceable," effectively making it a crime for the feds to enforce the bill in the state.

firefighter_raven 18 January 2013 12:29 AM

My question is how would that play out on Federal land within these areas? At least two of the Oregon Sheriffs that stated they would not only fail to enforce the law but prevent federal officers from doing the same have sizable National Forests in their counties.

erwins 18 January 2013 12:31 AM

States could, I suppose, pass such a law. But Congress could pass a law saying that no state or local authorities may interfere with enforcement of the federal laws (if there isn't already such a law), and by operation of the Supremacy Clause, the state law would be unenforceable.


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