A man has been fined $625 for committing four driving-related offences after unsuccessfully arguing that the Yukon Motor Vehicles Act doesn’t apply to him.
Territorial court judge Karen Ruddy found Christopher Brown guilty June 20 of operating an uninsured motor vehicle, operating an unregistered motor vehicle, using an unauthorized licence plate on his motor vehicle and failing to produce a driver’s licence.
Brown was charged in August 2018 after police pulled over his Dodge Journey, bearing a homemade licence plate reading “Private RO-BRO-A,” on the South Klondike Highway.
He pleaded not guilty to all four charges and represented himself at his trial in Whitehorse in April.
In her 32-page decision which she read out loud in court, Ruddy said that there was “little doubt” that the offences had taken place, given the facts of the case — Brown’s homemade licence plate was not authorized by law, and he failed to produce proof of insurance and registration as well as his driver’s licence after being asked by police.
“As with any regulatory offence, the burden rests on the Crown to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Brown committed the offences. By and large, Mr. Brown does not dispute the circumstances giving rise to the charges,” Ruddy said.
“Rather, Mr. Brown asserts that the Yukon Motor Vehicles Act does not apply to him, and, therefore, he cannot be convicted of the offences as charged.”
Among Brown’s arguments was that the law recognizes individuals as “natural” persons and “legal” persons, with the law only applying to the latter. Brown claimed he could not be convicted as he had been acting as a “natural” person at the time of the offences, an interpretation of Canadian law that Ruddy described as making “absolutely no logical or legal sense.”
Brown also attempted to invoke protections under international covenants protecting free movement and claimed that several of his Charter rights had been violated. Among the alleged violations was that police had treated him in a discriminatory matter by lumping him with “Freemen on the Land,” and that police had unlawfully seized his vehicle.
As well, in July 2018, Brown and his spouse had sent a document entitled Notice of Claim of Right of Movement, Affidavit of Truth to the Whitehorse RCMP detachment, the City of Whitehorse’s bylaw office and the Department of Motor Vehicles setting out their position “that any laws restricting movement do not apply to them.”
A Yukon government lawyer replied with a letter stating that the government “does not accept your contention that you are not subject to the laws of Yukon or Canada,” but the Browns responded with a letter stating the lawyer had not responded “within the prescribed method.”
The couple sent another letter to authorities on Aug. 2, 2018, stating that they were taking the government’s “failure” to respond as “presumptive acceptance” of their claim.
Ruddy concluded that “there is absolutely no legal merit to Mr. Brown’s interpretation of the law, which he has advanced as his defence to the charges before me.”
“In the result, I conclude that the territorial Crown has met its burden to prove the offences beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said. “As Mr. Brown has not advanced a valid legal defence, I find him guilty of all four counts as charged.”
Crown attorney Kelly McGill requested a collective fine for $625.
Brown said he found the fines “very reasonable and very generous.” He added that he had not been looking to commit crimes but had “wanted answers” as to why his interpretation of the law was incorrect, and Ruddy’s decision was “exactly what I was looking for right off the bat.”
He will have six months to pay the fine.
This is not the first time Brown has challenged the validity of the law, law enforcement officials and the courts.
In 2017, he appeared in territorial court on behalf of his spouse to challenge a parking ticket. However, he refused to cross the bar, instead opting to assert from the gallery that the court had no jurisdiction over him or his spouse.
The judge in that case found Brown’s spouse guilty in default.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org